Going Public: Conservation of Contemporary Artworks. Between Backstage and Frontstage in Contemporary Art Museums

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Saaze, Vivian van (2011)
  • Publisher: Instituto de História da Arte - Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas/UNL
  • Subject: Contemporary art | Presentation | Conservation | Installation artworks | Museum practices | Frontstage | Backstage | Museus

In museum studies and history of art, what happens behind the scenes of museums stays relatively unseen and unspoken about. In the arts, generally speaking, what is dismissed as irrelevant (e.g. the realm of practices) is deliberately detached from what is thought to really matter; theory, discourse, content and meaning. Up till recently, backstage activities such as conservation practices are merely discussed among specialists and museum professionals. Only the outcomes of these discussions are sometimes – if at all – explicitly communicated to a larger public. Studies into the practices of contemporary art conservation however show that practices behind the scenes play an important role in the perpetuation of these artworks. What happens behind the scenes in terms of conservation has, in several ways, important effects on the ongoing life of these artworks in a museum context. Conservation practices, I argue, should therefore become a necessary part of museum studies and history of art. How can the working practices of conservators become more visible and transparent to a diversity of audiences, including researchers? And what does this mean in terms of research methodology? Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT), Fundação Millennium bcp, Ministério da Cultura, Instituto dos Museus e da Conservação
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