In June 2008 the Getty Conservation Institute organized a meeting of international experts to discuss the significant and often highly complex issues faced by professionals in the conservation of modern and contemporary art. The meeting, entitled "Conservation Issues of Modern and Contemporary Art," was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Attended by twenty-six invited participants from Europe and the Americas, the group included conservators from a number of key institutions as well as some in private practice; scientists; collection managers; and those involved in conservation training programs and professional networks for contemporary art.

In an attempt to build on issues raised at the Getty's "The Object in Transition" conference in January 2008—which examined issues surrounding the preservation and study of modern and contemporary art—the meeting's attendees were asked to reflect on three main considerations: What are the principal issues currently faced by the field in the conservation of modern and contemporary art? How might the conservation profession address these issues? What changes would the profession want to make in the next five years to significantly improve the situation?

A working document summarizing the primary issues and possible responses, as determined by the meeting's participants, is currently being circulated for comment among a larger group of conservation professionals. Some of the major concerns outlined in the document include:

  • the lack of preventive conservation strategies for storage and display of the enormous range of materials used by contemporary artists;
  • the need for more extensive research into the development and evaluation of conservation treatments for these materials;
  • the absence of an appropriate forum to debate emerging ethical dilemmas;
  • the necessity for improved guidelines for documenting unconventional media—in particular, installation art;

The observations and conclusions from this meeting will form the basis of a strategic framework that will enable the Getty to initiate, cultivate, and coordinate a range of activities in the conservation of modern and contemporary art—including research, education and training, documentation, and dissemination.

For more information on the GCI's work on the conservation of contemporary art, visit the Getty Web site.