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Not afraid of a critical rethinking of her own theories

Not afraid of a critical rethinking of her own theories

Photographer:Fotograaf: archive Pip Laurenson

Inaugural lecture by Prof. Pip Laurenson

MAASTRICHT. “I’m an undisciplined TEFAF visitor and will simply enjoy a luxurious wander through the extraordinary variety of objects on view”, says Pip Laurenson. “But I’ll be sure to see the Joseph Beuys show Show Your Wound being curated by Mark Kremer as part of this year’s fair.” Laurenson (1965) is professor of Art Collection and Care at Maastricht University and head of Collection Care Research at Tate in London.

She is a pioneer in the conservation of contemporary art, and has played a significant role in shaping this emerging field. In the mid to late 1990s, for instance, she developed time-based media conservation: the practice of conserving works of art which depend on technology and have duration as a dimension.

In London Laurenson develops, leads and supports research related to the conservation and management of Tate's collections. Tate is a family of four museums that welcomes more than seven and a half million visitors a year and has a growing collection currently numbering some 70,000 pieces.

One of her great passions throughout her career – which also spans affiliations with Leiden University, King’s College London and other institutions – is the changing nature of contemporary artworks and how this affects the practice of conservation. Consider the transition from sculptures and paintings to film, slides and audio, and finally to performances or installations, which exist only in their installed state.

This will be the topic of her lecture on 18 March. For years the notion of the completeness of an artwork remained an underlying given in Laurenson’s work. “In my early work I worked with the assumption that I could document the defining aspects that needed to be conserved for a given artwork; assuming it was complete when it entered the museum. This is how we traditionally think about art, for example we assume a painting is finished in the artist’s studio and then goes on sale to a gallery or enters a museum. From the 1960s onwards, artists began creating works that are made outside the studio, that change over time, that differ when exhibited in other spaces. I realised whilst working with these artists that my assumptions did not always fit our practice.” This prompted a critical rethinking of her own theories, in particular the assumption of completeness, and an investigation of cases where artworks might be considered to unfold over time.

Does she buy art herself?I’m lucky. My most treasured artworks have been given to me. I did however recently buy myself a print by the artist Tim Etchells called Thirty Year Performance. It represents an ‘impossible’ score for the history of his company Forced Entertainment. It’s messy and funny and warrants spending time with.”  

Which piece (regardless of cost and whether it’s for sale or not) would she love to own and why?

“I’d love to have Nauman’s Dance or Exercise on the Perimeter of a Square (Square Dance) or Rebecca Horn’s Berlin Exercises quietly working away in my home. Imagine what it would be to own Agnes Martin’s Friendship from 1963! I was taught to gild when I started my conservation training and this painting uses these traditional and rather magical materials. All three of these works represent a very human sense of order and explore some fundamental questions about the nature of art and the structure of time and space.”

MACCH conference on fair and just practices

During TEFAF – from 11 until 20 March – the Maastricht Centre for Arts and Culture, Conservation and Heritage (MACCH) will hold its annual conference. This time, it will be in the Bonnefanten museum and the theme will be: Fair and Just Practices.
In this centre, researchers from four Maastricht faculties (Arts and Social Sciences, Law, School of Business and Economics and Humanities and Sciences) work together in the field of art and heritage research; the official kick-off was last year. The Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg and the Sociaal Historisch Centrum are also allied to MACCH. The centre has a strong research section – working both on its own initiative and on behalf of others (services) – and is involved in education. One of the successes was the acquisition of a European subsidy for NACCA: fifteen Ph.D. candidates were appointed for this project in the field of ‘conservation and contemporary art’. Students are involved too, for example in a feasibility survey for a euregional museum pass (cooperation with ‘border’ institute ITEM).”
On Friday 18 March, two inaugural lectures will take place within the framework of the seminar. First, Prof. dr. Pip Laurenson will hold a lecture on ‘Practice as Research: Unfolding the Objects of Contemporary Art Conservation’ followed by Prof. dr. Rachel Pownall on ‘The arts and finance’. The keynote speaker on 19 March is Olav Velthuis, Associate Professor at the University of Amsterdam.

Fake it or Leave it!

In co-operation with Lumière and Studium Generale, MACCH is organising a film programme. Like the conference, the film series aims to analyse, visualise and contextualize fair and unfair practices in art and heritage worlds from a variety of disciplinary and trans-disciplinary perspectives. The films: F for fake (Orson Welles) on 15 March, Beltracchi: the art of forgery (Arne Birkenstock) on 16 March, The rape of Europa (Richard Berge & Bonni Cohen) on 17 March. The films are followed by a debate or have an introduction by an expert.




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