Sunday, June 21, 2009

No, Your Mother Doesn't Work Here: Cleaning Up After Art

Let me start off with saying that I really enjoy Anselm Kiefer's work and 'Breaking of the Vessels' is a lovely piece that I have been attracted to since I first saw it at the St. Louis Art Museum as a kid and continued to see it over subsequent visits. In a way, this piece and I grew up together; it has seen me get bigger and surlier and I have seen it get... well, filthy.

In that pile of glass there are dust bunnies worthy of mounting on the wall of a lodge. There are gum wrappers, dead bugs, crumpled paper, and other miscellaneous blown-in leavings. And let's not forget the the crusty, dirty, smugged glass that is all in razor-sharp, shard form. This is a curatorial and conservation nightmare. If the whole thing were to be disassembled and cleaned, it would never be put back together the same way. On the other hand, if it is left as is... let's just say that you can't see the art through all the crud. Of course, that leads me to another question? Is the crud part of the sculpture? I am going to say 'no' since it started out all shiny and there have been minor attempts to spot clean over the years.
I am not going to say that artists should not make pieces that are impossible to maintain (I am not going to follow that rule) but I think that there should be some nod to the future conservation of any piece if it is supposed to be a permanent sculpture and not a temporary installation. Although it would be kinda funny to make a sculpture out of grapes, tissue paper, and puppies, just to see a museum deal with the mess. Take that future restorationists!! Muahahaha!!


  1. so, is this piece a protest against the israeli policy of bulldozing the homes' of the families of palestinian militants...?

    -- tony

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  3. It is definitely to be noted how changing political baggage follows around artists these days and has become part of the permanent framework for viewing!