Conservation in the Contemporary Art Market

Ben Fino-Radin
Electronic Media Review, Volume Six: 2019-2020


When contending with replicable, variable, and iterative forms of contemporary art outside the walls of institutions, the role of conservation extends beyond an act to prolong and protect the life of a work. In considering how the work of a time-based media (TBM) conservator may interface with and support the ecosystem of an artist’s studios, galleries, and private collections, conservation becomes a critical component of operational viability, as well as market acceptance, especially when considering small artist studios tasked with supporting sometimes hundreds of TBM artworks in collections all over the world. At last year’s annual meeting, Small Data’s post-graduate fellow presented research and findings as to how private practice TBM conservators can expand their remit to better support this sometimes fragile ecosystem. This year, we will present three case studies offering a practical perspective on how TBM conservation can directly support the activities of contemporary artist studios. Our case study on collaborations with Cory Arcangel will offer a view into fabrication, preventive conservation, documentation, and supporting collectors; with Sondra Perry, we will explore how documentation and remote support tools are aiding both private collectors and institutions; and finally, our case study on collaborations with John Gerrard’s studio will share an exploration into the use of cloud-based virtualization platforms for the secure and reliable loan and display of complex and demanding software-based works of art. Ultimately, these case studies will be shared in the hope of providing colleagues with reproducible methods and tools for commonly encountered challenges in supporting TBM art.

Keywords: Time-based media, contemporary art, Cory Arcangel, Sondra Perry, John Gerrard


Ben Fino-Radin
Small Data Industries