Behind the scenes at the Hirshhorn

Watch as Gwynne Ryan, sculpture conservator at the Hirshhorn, and Kate Moomaw, a postgraduate conservation fellow at the museum, provide an in-depth look at the challenges of conserving contemporary and modern art.
The video below highlights the challenges of conserving Paul Thek’s “Fishman,” which is primarily composed of latex. Thek, an American artist, created post-minimal sculpture and worked extensively with latex throughout the late 1960s. “Fishman” was created with latex, metal rods, newspaper and cotton batting and features cast replicas of fish adhered to the body of the sculpture.

Contemporary artists are inspired by a wide range of unusual and unconventional materials. While these materials play a major role in creating innovative art, they sometimes are not necessarily designed to last into posterity. Conservators face the challenge of conserving art and artifacts that have been created using such things as chocolate, pollen, latex—even live insects. Art conservators at the Hirshhorn are collaborating with Smithsonian scientists to better understand how these materials degrade and are devising new ways to preserve these artworks.

Posted: 26 January 2010
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