Contemporary issues in Art Conservation

Students discussing the ways of conserving William Kentridge's "Refusal of Time" as installed at the National Gallery, Iziko Museums, Cape Town, South Africa.  Image courtesy of the Iziko Museums.

Students discussing the ways of conserving William Kentridge's "Refusal of Time" as installed at the National Gallery, Iziko Museums, Cape Town, South Africa.  Image courtesy of the Iziko Museums.

The course introduces students to some of the contemporary issues concerning art conservation theory and practice.  Main topics to be considered include the following: How does conservation change the meaning and interpretation of objects and sites?  Whose values are considered when conserving an artifact or site?  Do objects live, die or have spiritual needs, and how does contemporary conservation practice cope with this?  What role does conservation play in restoring memory, human relationships and national identity in the wake of political conflict?

Over the length of the course, we examine the conservator’s approaches, methods and ethics and reflect on how these influence the appearance and interpretation of works of art.  We also confront the voices of the artists, makers and users of art, cultural objects and sites, and consider how their intentions and choices of materials complicate or defy the role of the conservator.  We further examine how individuals, communities and nations contest and claim bodies, objects and sites.  Finally, we look at some of the powerful outside forces—political strife, armed conflict, tourism and the art market—that shape conservation practice. 

The full syllabus can be downloaded here.  Information on the student-generated blog associated with this course can be found here.