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Friday, June 1 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Material Transfers & Translations) What are the boundaries in conservation and restoration of contemporary art works: two case studies from the Berardo Collection

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The valorization of what is ‘original’ plays a major role in western art history’s narratives with frequent support in the materiality of the Thing. The chronology of our civilization follows the concept of materiality up to its fetishization, in diverse ways and diverse areas of the history of culture. Conservation and restoration, after decades of scientific development about the preservation of the physics and chemistry of matter, is now sailing between the danger of 'zombification' of art objects and the catastrophe of their disappearance. Therefore, questions such as ‘what is the value of certain material, aesthetic or other aspect for this particular artwork / for this particular artist?’ are blooming frequently in our museum practice and reveal a fast mutation. This paper intends to oversee the approaches regarding the idea of authenticity and the role of the museum collections as a vehicle for truth. The perspectives of different conservators from different backgrounds, along with particular conservation intervention examples, allow the argument of a more open awareness towards concepts as materiality, artist’s intention and historicity. Further, this paper approaches the role of the museum as a mediator between the artwork, the visitor’s experience and art history. Following this reflection, the interventions performed in ‘L’arbre Biplan’, 1968-69 by Jean Dubuffet and ‘Estudo para dois espaços’, 1977 by Helena Almeida, will be presented as different paradigms for the problems mentioned above, acknowledging them as good examples of sacrificing ‘authentic’ aspects in order to preserve continuously and thoroughly the artist’s work and purpose. Jean Dubuffet’s ‘L’Arbre Biplan’ intervention was performed with a previous knowledge of the artist’s work and the relation of this particular piece to others from the same period, or under the same creative approach. The work presented severe staining and stress fissures which we interpreted as a deterioration due to permanent outdoors exhibition and to it’s natural aging. The Dubuffet Foundation was contacted, informed of the problems identified and the director, Sophie Webel, provided relevant information regarding construction and previous restorations. Helena Almeida’s prints were cleaned, infilled, inpainted and retouched whenever it was found emulsion lacunas in the places where emulsion was missing (colour reintegration included). During conservation treatment of the prints, small areas previously intervened (loss compensation) were found. An insightful knowledge of Almeida’s artistic work concerning mounting and possible aesthetic interventions (such as punctual inpainting) on the surface of the prints would clarify the 'authenticity' of the work and help setting the boundaries for the decision making. This paper also intends to address potential dangers due to lack of artist’s insight on particular interventions. Brandi refers in 1963 that “The physical nature of the work must of necessity take precedence, since it represents the real place where the image is materialized”. Our interpretation of this declaration fits the intention of being utmost respectful to the real object (when the work has one) which means a respect for intangible aspects that the tangible must withhold.

avatar for Élia Roldão

Élia Roldão

Photograph Conservator, Freelance
Élia Roldão has completed a Post Graduation degree in 2007 in Chemistry Applied to Cultural Heritage, with specialization in photography, in the Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa and the Instituto Politécnico de Tomar (Portugal). From 2000-10 she worked for Luis... Read More →
avatar for Francisca Sousa

Francisca Sousa

Registrar/Conservator, Museu Coleção Berardo
Francisca Sousa is graduated in Conservation by the New University of Lisbon with a specialization in Contemporary Art and Preventive Conservation (internship at the National Contemporary Art Museum - Museu do Chiado, 2007). She works as a conservator and a registrar since 2006 w... Read More →


Alexandra Encarnação

Coordinator, National Photographic Documentation Archive
Coordinator of the National Photographic Documentation Archive (DGPC). Graduated in History, specialized in photography conservation at the Fratelli Alinari Archives in Florence, Italy.

Pedro Serra

Freelance conservator, GPCR
Freelance conservator, founder of GPCR conservation company. Specialized in outdoor sculpture, architectural conservation, construction of replicas and fiberglass.

Friday June 1, 2018 2:00pm - 2:30pm

Attendees (23)