Press Room Search

Current Press Releases
Archived Press Releases

News Home Current Press Releases


Getty Research Institute and Getty Conservation Institute host curators, conservators, and art historians to examine modern and contemporary artworks that have deteriorated
over time

January 15, 2008

LOS ANGELES—Can a modern or contemporary art object ‘die’ if it is made from unstable materials?  What constitutes acceptable aging? What should institutions do when the passage of time or the elements have made an object unsuitable for exhibition? And to what degree should decisions about an object’s conservation be based on a subjective interpretation of the artist’s intent?

These and other questions are proving highly complex for the art world.  While artists’ traditional materials, such as oil paint, marble, and bronze, have proven to be durable over time, artists in the 20th century began using a variety of new materials, many of which have proven to be highly unstable and often short-lived. These contemporary works pose serious challenges, as there is often no codified method for conserving them, and there are countless artworks that now appear starkly altered from their original form.

Art historians, curators, conservators, conservation scientists and artists converge in Los Angeles this month to confront these issues in "The Object in Transition: A Cross Disciplinary Conference on the Preservation and Study of Modern and Contemporary Art" jointly hosted by the Getty Research Institute and the Getty Conservation Institute from Jan. 24-26 at the Getty Center.

Works by artists including Eve Hesse, Barnett Newman, Roy Lichtenstein, and David Novros that illustrate this dilemma will be on private display during the meeting of art world luminaries. Some of the works have deteriorated to such an extent that they have not been on view for many years.

This first-of-its-kind event aims to increase dialogue between experts with differing points of view and frames of reference about the complex preservation issues posed by the  enormous diversity of modern materials used for contemporary sculpture, painting and mixed-media artworks, each with its own unique set of physical and chemical properties and responses to aging, environmental conditions, and conservation treatments.

Conference participants include: Michelle Barger, Deputy Head of Conservation, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Yve-Alain Bois, Professor of Art History, Institute for Advanced Study; David Bomford, Associate Director of Collections, J. Paul Getty Museum; Jim Coddington, Agnes Gund Chief Conservator, Museum of Modern Art; Lynne Cooke, Curator, Dia Art Foundation; Jack Cowart, Executive Director, Roy Lichtenstein Foundation; Brad Epley, Chief Conservator, Menil Collection; Heather Galloway, Painting Conservator, Intermuseum Conservation Association; Gary Garrels, Deputy Director, Exhibitions and Chief Curator, Hammer Museum; Ijsbrand Hummelen, Senior Researcher, Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage; Pip Laurenson, Head of Time-Based Media Conservation, Tate London; Tom Learner, Senior Scientist, Getty Conservation Institute; Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, Associate Director for Conservation and Research, Whitney Museum of American Art; Christine Mehring, Professor of Art History, University of Chicago; Andrew Perchuk, Assistant Director, Contemporary Programs and Research, Getty Research Institute; Glenn Phillips, Senior Project Specialist, Contemporary Programs and Research, Getty Research Institute; Ron Spronk, Head of Art Department, Queen’s University; Jill Sterrett, Director of Collections and Conservation, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Carol Stringari, Chief Conservator, Guggenheim Museum; Elisabeth Sussman, Curator and Sondra Gilman Curator of Photography, Whitney Museum of American Art; Nancy Troy, Professor of Art History, University of Southern California; David Turnbull, Assistant Conservator, Denver Art Museum; Anne Wagner, Professor of Art History, University of California, Berkeley; Jeffrey Weiss, Director, Dia Art Foundation; Glenn Wharton, Conservator, Museum of Modern Art; Stephanie Wiles, John G. W. Cowles, Director, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College; and Julie Wolfe, Associate Conservator, J. Paul Getty Museum.

The conference opens Thursday, January 24 at 7:30pm with a panel discussion (the only portion of the conference open to the public) that brings together four of the leading artists in the world today—Robert Gober, Rachel Harrison, Paul McCarthy, and Doris Salcedo—to talk about the production and conservation of their work. A video recording of the panel discussion will be available at shortly after the event. 

Events on Friday and Saturday, January 25 and 26, will focus on individual works that illustrate each discussion.  The conference is open to professionals and graduate students in related fields.  Press credentials are available for all or part of the conference.

For more detailed information on the conference and program, visit:

# # #

Beth Laski
Getty Communications

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

Sign up for e-Getty at to receive free monthly highlights of events at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa via e-mail, or visit our event calendar for a complete calendar of public programs.

The Getty Research Institute is an operating program of the J. Paul Getty Trust. It serves education in the broadest sense by increasing knowledge and understanding about art and its history through advanced research. The Research Institute provides intellectual leadership through its research, exhibition, and publication programs and provides service to a wide range of scholars worldwide through residencies, fellowships, online resources, and a Research Library. The Research Library - housed in the 201,000-square-foot Research Institute building designed by Richard Meier - is one of the largest art and architecture libraries in the world. The general library collections (secondary sources) include almost 900,000 volumes of books, periodicals, and auction catalogues encompassing the history of Western art and related fields in the humanities. The Research Library's special collections include rare books, artists' journals, sketchbooks, architectural drawings and models, photographs, and archival materials.

The Getty Conservation Institute works internationally to advance conservation practice in the visual arts-broadly interpreted to include objects, collections, architecture, and sites. The Institute serves the conservation community through scientific research, education and training, model field projects, and the dissemination of the results of both its own work and the work of others in the field. In all its endeavors, the GCI focuses on the creation and delivery of knowledge that will benefit the professionals and organizations responsible for the conservation of the world's cultural heritage. To learn more, subscribe to the GCI's E-Bulletin by visiting