Project archive

NWO programme Science4Arts

The Kröller-Müller Museum is one of the participants in a new study into contemporary photography and its conservation. The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has allocated 600,000 euro for this to the University of Leiden and the Stedelijk Museum, as part of its programme Science4Arts. The research focuses on photographic works in which different materials and techniques are combined. It looks at the chemical and physical properties of the work, as well as the meaning and content of the object itself, and the context of the work of art. For the first time in this discipline on such a large scale, a team of restorers, chemists, conservators and art historians is being assembled especially for this task. Artists will also be involved in the study of their works as much as possible.

Ger van Elk (1941), Dutch Grey,1983 - 1984
enamel and lacquer on black and white photographs (gelatin silver prints) on rigid PVC
147,7 x 147,7 cm

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Ultimately, photographs consist of chemicals on paper or another base. They are never completely stable. A museum seeks to conserve and display photographs for as long as possible. This is all the more difficult with photographic works that also incorporate other materials, as is often the case in modern art. An example is the work by Ger van Elk from 1983/84 in the collection of the Kröller-Müller Museum, in which the photograph on a PVC panel is partially painted over with varnish and alkyd paint. The paint has different properties to the base; furthermore the various materials are also mutually reactive. The work is degrading as a result of the different ageing processes. Furthermore, the manual application of paint makes the work a unique specimen.

The research is divided into three closely interrelated subprojects, two of which are for doctoral research, one by the University of Leiden (Prof. Dr. Kitty Zijlmans) and one by the University of Utrecht (Debye Institute, Prof. Dr. Leo Jenneskens). The third subproject will take place in the Stedelijk Museum. With regard to the objects, the core of these will comprise a body of photographic works from after 1960, in which different materials are combined or where an unconventional technique has been used. It involves important works by artists such as Joseph Beuys, Ger van Elk, Gilbert & George, Richard Hamilton, Anselm Kiefer and Aernout Mik, from the collections of the Stedelijk Museum, the Van Abbemuseum and the Kröller-Müller Museum, among others. Foreign universities and museums of contemporary art will also provide their advice and expertise in this field and, thus, make their contributions to the research.

The study will last four years and conclude with an international symposium, in which all the results will be presented and discussed. In addition to the support from NWO, the project is receiving structural subsidies from: Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE), the Kröller-Müller Museum, the Van Abbemuseum and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

A selection of the parties involved in this project: University of Leiden; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; University of Utrecht (Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science); Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed; Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; Foto Restauratie Atelier VOF, Amsterdam; Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg; Eyes on Media, Amsterdam; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; Getty Museum, Los Angeles; TNO, Delft; Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk; Tate Gallery, London, United Kingdom; University of Amsterdam; Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam; Eye Film Institute Netherlands, Amsterdam; Museum Folkwang, Essen; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam; Rochester Institute of Technology, New York; De Verbeelding, Purmerend.

More information (in Dutch) via Stedelijk Museum

Duration: Apr 25, 2012 - Apr 25, 2016