Fail Better

Symposium in English at the Hamburger Kunsthalle on Decision Making in Conservation Practice of Modern and Contemporary Art 6 – 8 Dec. 2013

Is replacement the right approach to conservation of contemporary art – for complete artworks or even elements of artworks with damages or disintegrated material, for works where the original technical form of presentation is no longer available? What significance is given to the original work, to a copy, or a replica? At what point does replacement reach its limits? Have guidelines for conservation and restoration been established related to dealing with the deterioration of artworks? How does the art market, or how do artists respond to this? Patina versus perfection?

 What does failure imply in this context? Are we willing to accept a failure in the process of conservation and restoration, when the intention of the artwork does not include decomposition, and we are not capable of perfectly preserving the perfect work of art? In today’s success-oriented society, the concept of failure has a very negative connotation. And yet it is precisely from failure that we can learn and find new approaches, equipped with fresh energy and newly gained insights. The symposium provided a platform for an international and interdisciplinary dialogue, created a space to discuss these issues and revealed possible strategies. Internationally renowned restorers, with groundbreaking expertise in conservation, and curators working in the field of contemporary art were invited to share their views. Drawing on their extensive professional experience of up to 30 years, they came together to reflect upon present approaches to the conservation of contemporary art.