The Symposium


Conservation and Value
in Contemporary Art


In recent years, a dynamic experimental production of art, an expanding fast-paced global art market, and a growing culture of collecting have put extreme demands on the physical condition and integrity of works of contemporary art. 

Sculptures made of latex, foam or elephant dung, or paintings made with chewing gum, vegetable dye, chocolate, or just dust and ashes, today achieve high prices in auctions and galleries. Objects made of fragile materials and paintings with extremely delicate surfaces serve as a desirable investment for funds and social status.

The main challenge in the conservation of contemporary art is the continual negotiation between the unavoidable physical aging of the material and the artistic intent. Even a small injury or unacceptable imperfection can disconnect a work from its original conception, affecting its integrity - and thus its value.

In contrast to the much-discussed conservation practice in museums, this symposium will explore the codes of ethics and market forces that rule the decisions on conservation in private practice. It will bring together artists, collectors, art historians and dealers, art insurers, lawyers and adjusters, auction houses, artists' estates and conservators to discuss what is acceptable, short of perfection, in the changing condition of artworks, and who is behind the decisions in refabrication, devaluation and total loss.

Hosted by School of Visual Arts (SVA) and organized by Contemporary Conservation Ltd., The First Crack symposium will further raise important questions about the collaboration between artist and conservator, the relational shifts of material and meaning over time, and the challenges of guiding an artist’s legacy into the future.