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Sanneke Stigter, Retouching with light

From Setback to Succes - 3rd Symposium of the working group Modern Art Modern Cultural Heritage – VDR Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Dec. 3-4 2004

Date: Dec 4, 2004

‘Ethical problems of faded colour photographs in the work of Ger van Elk:
Retouching with light as a solution’

Current conservation ethics based on the preservation of authentic materials are of little importance to an artist like Ger van Elk to whom the conceptual message is more important than its material realisation. This is illustrated by case studies from recent conservation history in which the artist was involved. Ethical questions are raised and judged against the background of an art historical study on the meaning of the artist’s work in relation to the used materials and techniques. The role of the museum as opposed to the artist regarding the conservation of modern art becomes clear. When the museum fails in the subject of preventive conservation and seeks a solution in cooperation with the artist one might end up with an authorised copy – but what is left of the artistic value? An alternative conservation treatment to a discoloured photograph was developed with respect to the original material, instead of treating the object the lighting conditions where changed to improve the object’s appearance. Coloured light projection is used on display to enhance the severely discoloured photograph in Roquebrune, a sculpture by the artist from 1979.