Living Matter/ La Materia Viva

The Preservation of Biological Materials Used in Contemporary Art/
Conservación de materiales orgánicos en el arte contemporáneo

June 3-5, 2019
MUAC and ENCRyM, Mexico City

Organized by the Getty Conservation Institute, the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporaneo (MUAC) of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma Mexico, and ENCRyM (Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía "Manuel del Castillo Negrete").

En Español

Countless artists from Marcel Duchamps, Andy Warhol, Piero Manzoni to Ed Ruscha, Anya Gallaccio, Teresa Margolles, Adrián Villar Rojas, Marta Palau, and Damien Hirst have used biological materials (food, bodily fluids, plant material, etc.) in their art.

These materials are often prone to rapid decay and can even undergo putrefaction processes leading to complete disappearance. Therefore, biological materials used in art pose very specific, and often extreme, conservation problems.

Solutions to these problems can be of different natures, including altering drastically the material's behavior by embedding it in resin or inserting it in modified atmospheres—perhaps at the expense of some of the qualities of the work or periodically replacing parts or the whole of the work—but clear rules for the replacement have then to be established.

In some cases, a work is meant to disappear, so the very act of preservation goes against the work's intended nature. Yet another challenge is the display of these works in a museum environment might also present a preservation risk to other works of art in the same space.

As often is the case, there is no fit-for-all approach.

Living Matter/ La Materia Viva
will discuss the broad implications and challenges (conceptual, ethical, and practical) associated with collecting, displaying, and preserving contemporary works that include biological materials. It will explore how the initial intention for the work might conflict with museum policies and the ways this might impact both the nature and lifespan of the work, present a range of possible solutions through case studies, and give an overview of current thinking and practices on this topic.

The two-and-a-half-day event will gather conservators, artists, art historians, and curators. It includes invited keynote addresses, lectures, as well as panel discussions and visits. The symposium languages will be English and Spanish with simultaneous translation provided.

Final program now available in English and in Spanish .

Registration for the symposium, panel discussion, and tours is available on the Living Matter/ La Materia Viva Eventbrite page.

Funding Opportunity
The Gabo Trust invites grant applications from conservators of modern and contemporary sculpture for this symposium. Further details, eligibility, and application information is available on the Gabo Trust website.

For more information please contact:

Page updated: February 2019