The Role of Conservation in Contemporary Painting

Dr Christina Young

detail of material
Detail of Heart of the Fog


detail of material
Detail of Heart of the Fog


detail of paint
Artist Anselm Kiefer


"Maybe a work is only finished when it's ruined, no? You wouldn't believe how many people send me photographs of my paintings when they have fallen down from the wall! They are always afraid that the work will fall down, that objects will fall from them......It is not so easy, I think, having a painting of mine."

This research aims to bring together conservators, scientists, artists, art handlers and curators from the Tate, MoMA (NY) and White Cube Gallery and private practice. Through seminars, workshops, treatments and analysis of contemporary artists' methods and materials, there is an exchange of information and approaches to the conservation of contemporary painting. Research papers on Patrick Caulfield, Peter Blake and John Hoyland will be downloadable from this site in early 2012.


In collaboration with White Cube Gallery, Christina Young has focused her research on Anselm Kiefer- examining the nature of transformation of his paintings with the aim of developing a methodology for their future display and care. Anselm Kiefer represents the antithesis of the conservation remit to stop or slow down the degradation of materials within works of art. He challenges conservators and curators to accept decay and transformation. However, further exploration is required to fully understand both the physical and philosophical boundaries in which he operates and perceives future transformation.

To coincide with the Kiefer show at White Cube, the paper 'Sow's Ears and Silk Purses: Maintaining the art works of Anselm Kiefer' is published here by the Courtauld Institute.

PDF Sow's Ears and Silk Purses: Maintaining the art works of Anselm Kiefer, by Tom Hale (note: clicking this link opens a 2 MB pdf)

A seminar will take place on 26 January 2012 at White Cube entitled 'An art of ongoing transformation: Anselm Kiefer's materials and methods'.

Related links:

2007 BBC interview with Anselm Kiefer

International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art

Tate Conservation Department

The Getty Conservation Institute

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