Conservation and restoration beyond the canvas: Comtemporary, emerging and digital art.
By Julia Betancor
People often wonder why contemporary art needs curators and restorers, and that question is frankly valid, though the answer is only understood by a few.
In Europe, there are not many curators who embrace the challenge of working with art from the 20th and 21th centuries. Our romantic image is rooted in the heritage of Western Art that perpetuates the stereotype of the restorers as a group of minions with virtuous patience who "clean up" masterpieces.
However, restoring contemporary art requires continuous learning, which represents the most advanced level of the art ecosystem. One must have had a traditional fine arts background, worked with a color palette, understand physics and chemistry... and it requires decades of work with a deep empathy for the creative intent.
Every piece of art begins to age from the moment of its birth, any work was contemporary when it was first created. In 1548 Titian decided to expose his canvas to the sun in order to accelerate the drying of the oil while painting Charles V on horseback in Mühlberg. Suddenly a gust of wind blew it down and the genius himself had to restore the damages. The same thing occurs in contemporary art restoration: accidents happen, colors fade, materials rust and works of art travel across continents in the blink of an eye.
Art from the late 20th and early 21th centuries presents new challenges. Works are made with unusual materials, such as plastic, with an unpredictable behaviour. Contemporary artists have diverse aesthetic demands. For instance, artificial intelligence or polished metal sculptures that are supposed to stay in pristine condition without any marks or scratches. Some other artists work with found materials, waste, rust, polystyrene foam, organic matter, torned-apart paper… an authentic Totum revolutum which is eventually categorized as “mixed media” in a single piece.
The dilemma emerges then and several questions come up: how much of the pictorial layer can we lose? Do we replace the images with digital versions, or better yet, do we accumulate a cache of 1960's televisions, or an arsenal of 5¼" floppy disks in storage?
The good news is that we may have answers to this questions and we keep on researching to preserve works of art, if that is their purpose, because we must understand that there are also some creations that are ephemeral, conceived to fade away with time.
Within the Art world, many roles are visible in fairs and exhibitions, but there is a crucial mission that remains almost unperceived: the restorer. This is precisely our field of action, travelling the international contemporary art circuit as a sort of “Doctors on call”.
Though I am specialized in painting, my experiences in Museo Reina Sofía, London and the United States sparked my curiosity to a wide range of opportunities in Contemporary Art. This understanding of materials, along my family’s background in digital enterpreneurship encouraged me to keep growing and learning the profession.
It is surprising that some art buyers dont take into consideration a curator/restorer when purchasing a piece, someone who will explain them what is like living with contemporary art.
The acquisition of a pricey work of art is no garantee of its eterinity without any manteinance, and for this reason many collectors come tu us asking for condition reports, so they can take better decissions.
The life of a curator is dynamic and diverse, there is no room for tedium and requires a constant resilience as well as a high resistance to frustration. Each work and each client present different needs and there are no magical solutions. We get requests from all over the world, from Dubai to New York or Hong Kong to create this condition reports, always giving our best.
How many people are kissing frogs in emerging art, hoping that luck and chance will turn them into princesses or kings? It is not easy at all. A good curator is key and their role goes beyond repairing obvious damage.
Events such as ARCOmadrid offer our partially sponsored conservation services in real time, providing pre-acquisition advice and emergency treatment. Conservation costs vary according to the severity of the damage and the value of the work and new restorers are ethically committed to intervene as little as possible.
About the author
JB Fine Art Conservation and Restauration is globally aknowledged as une of the leading restoring studios, with over thirty years of experience in combining new methods and the latest technology with the maximum respect for tradition.
Julia’a next project is to participate, as the only Spanish representative, in the first European Gren Cluster meeting, a forum for the promotion of sustainability and the empowering of restorers and curator through the use of green materials and technologies.
History Corporate Collections
The Masaveu collections are a faithful reflection of the tradition of patronage and passion for art that has been defining the Masaveu family and House since the end of the 19th century. Over the generations, this family of originally Catalan entrepreneurs based in Asturias has succeeded in building a considerable legacy, spread across the Masaveu Collection, the Fundación María Cristina Masaveu Peterson Collection and various individual collections, including that of Pedro Masaveu Peterson, now property of the Principality of Asturias and the Fine Arts Museum of Asturias.
The Masaveu Collection, owned by the Corporación Masaveu and managed since 2013 by Fundación María Cristina Masaveu Peterson, constitutes one of the most important private art collections in Spain, and is a unique example within the context of private collecting in Spain by the new industrial and financial bourgeoisie of the 19th to 21st centuries. Documented from at least the decade of 1930, it stands out not only for the sheer number of works but above all for their exceptional artistic value and variety, spanning from the Middle Ages to the first decade of the 21st century, and including renowned works by artists such as El Greco, Zurburán, Murillo, Sorolla, Picasso, Miró or Braque, among others.
Created in 2006, Fundación María Cristina Masaveu Peterson is a non-profit private Spanish cultural foundation of general interest that seeks to promote national and international culture, education and scientific research and education. It has its own art collection, with a particular focus on contemporary art that is constantly growing, comprising outstanding artists such as Juan van der Hamen, Federico de Madrazo, Keith Haring or Jaume Plensa. Some of its most emblematic endeavours include the recovery of Spain’s artistic patrimony and the promotion of Art Patronage Projects that have made possible five editions of the projects Miradas de Asturias or the installation Julia (2018), by Jaume Plensa, in Madrid’s Plaza Colón.
Both collections enter frequent dialogues in different exhibition projects organised by the Fundación which, faithful to the spirit of its founder, María Cristina Masaveu Peterson, walks towards the future without ever forgetting its past.
María Soto Cano
Curator Fundación María Cristina Masaveu Peterson
Photography: Julia. Jaume Plensa. Property: Colección Fundación María Cristina Masaveu Peterson. © of the photographic reproduction: Fundación María Cristina Masaveu Peterson, 2018. Author of the photograph: Joaquín Cortés.
In its focus on supporting talent and driving artistic creation, Fundación Sorigué has built one of the most emblematic private contemporary art collections in Spain, distinguished with the “Arte y Mecenazgo” award from “La Caixa” foundation and the “Premio GAC al Coleccionismo” for its collecting.
Made up of over 450 works, the collection stands out for its distinctly humanistic character and educational vein, bringing together works of art hinging on the most sensitive and emotional dimensions of artistic creation. The passage of time, identity, memory and our relationships with and interest in our environment are the key axes the collection revolves around. The collection is organised into unique pieces from the oeuvre of each artist, alternating renowned international names with others that are lesser known, creating small clusters of works of enormous interest and quality, key to understanding the trajectory of each author. The incorporation of works by artists such as William Kentridge, Julie Mehretu, Antonio López and Doris Salcedo, to mention but a few, have marked different turning points in its development.
Some of the works from the collection are present in PLANTA, an innovative project combining art, architecture, knowledge and landscape. PLANTA presents sites-specific works by benchmark artists such as Anselm Kiefer, Chiharu Shiota and Bill Viola, who bear testament to the evolution and permanence, the tradition and innovation, the limits and origins of humanity.
Director of Fundación Sorigue
Our award, as Fundación ARCO rightly acknowledged on granting us the “A” Award for corporate collecting, is underpinned by meticulous care in our selection of artists and works, and also the installation of the collection in a business setting that makes access to it possible for both Bank employees and its shareholders and clients. Similarly, this award also distinguishes the benevolent spirit that has always guided our activity: the artistic and historic value of the works, the brand value and prestige, the decorative function and, above all, the dignification of spaces dedicated to work and relations. Our collection also subscribes to the policy of incorporating young artists who stand out for their creativity and innovation capacity, values that reflect the Bank’s culture.
Director of the Banco Sabadell Art Collection
Exhibition Hacia la geometría desde la abstracción.
At DKV we understand art as a tool for expression and creativity that enables us to be aware of the principal problems in our society, of how we react to them and of the prevailing schools of thought in our times.
As health activists we advocate causes such as environmental conservation, women’s well-being, inclusion and the fight against childhood obesity.
A country with no culture is not a healthy country. In this sense, creating a collection has served as an element of communication for all these subjects, for all these concerns. A new way to express what worries us all.
That is why our collection is made up of up-and-coming Spanish artists who represent young, contemporary creativity and thought. Artists who, from their position, help us to reflect on and raise issues and even solutions. The collection addresses the different subjects in a way that is contemporary, assertive, free, creative and, above all, aware.
The collection currently comprises more than 800 pieces by over 300 artists. All the artistic disciplines are represented, from painting to video and everything in between, including photography, drawing and installations.
A body of work which is available to be used in collaboration with museums, foundations and different communication tools, and which continues to grow through grants, prizes and direct acquisitions.
Title: Hacia la geometría desde la abstracción. Colección DKV
Venue: Sala Vimcorsa. Córdoba
Hacia blanco. 2013. Guillermo Mora.
Anélido VII. 2008. Toño Barreiro.
Dos.Interior.Dom.Molina.Día. 2011. Martín Freire.