Eggshells, flowers, onion peels, sponge cake, dried bread, breast milk—these are just a few of the biological materials that some contemporary artists have used to make art. But how can works made from such perishable ingredients be preserved? And what ethical and conceptual dilemmas might be posed by doing so? Because they are prone to rapid decay, even complete disappearance, biological materials pose a range of unique conservation challenges. This groundbreaking book probes the moral and practical challenges associated with displaying, collecting, and preserving these unique works of art. Theoretical considerations are complemented by a range of specific case studies, thereby affording a comprehensive and richly detailed overview of current thinking and practices on this topic.
With contributions by conservators, scholars, curators, and artists, Living Matter is the first publication to address broadly these provocative issues, exploring the role of biological materials in the creative process and presenting a wide variety of possible approaches to their preservation.
“Living Matter: The Preservation of Biological Materials in Contemporary Art”
A conference organized by the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografia (ENCRyM) of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH), Mexico City, June 3–5, 2019
Rivenc, Rachel, and Kendra Roth, eds. Living Matter: The Preservation of Biological Materials in Contemporary Art, An International Conference Held in Mexico City, June 3–5, 2019. Los Angeles: Getty Conservation Institute, 2022. https://www.getty.edu/publications/living-matter/.
Rivenc, Rachel, and Kendra Roth, editors. Living Matter: The Preservation of Biological Materials in Contemporary Art, An International Conference Held in Mexico City, June 3–5, 2019. Getty Conservation Institute, 2022. https://www.getty.edu/publications/living-matter/. Accessed Feb. 23, 2021.
Any revisions or corrections made to this publication after the first edition date will be listed here and in the project repository at github.com/thegetty/living-matter/, where a more detailed version history is available. The revisions branch of the project repository, when present, will also show any changes currently under consideration but not yet published here.
May 24, 2022
- First edition
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© 2022 J. Paul Getty Trust
Text by Marcia Reed, Rachel Rivenc, Kendra Roth, and Timothy P. Whalen © 2022 J. Paul Getty Trust. All other text © the authors.
The text of this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. All images are reproduced with the permission of the rights holders acknowledged in captions and are expressly excluded from the CC BY-NC license covering the rest of this publication. These images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted, or manipulated without consent from the owners, who reserve all rights.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
- Names: Getty Conservation Institute, author, issuing body. | Rivenc, Rachel, editor. | Kendra Roth, editor.
- Title: Living Matter: The Preservation of Biological Materials in Contemporary Art
- Description: First edition. | Los Angeles : Getty Conservation Institute, 2022. | Proceedings of the symposium “Living Matter: The Preservation of Biological Materials in Contemporary Art / La Materia Viva: Conservación de materiales orgánicos en el arte contemporáneo” which took place June 3–5, 2019, in Mexico City and was co-organized by the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI), the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), and the Escuela Nacional de Conservación, Restauración y Museografía “Manuel del Castillo Negrete” (ENCRyM) of the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH). | Includes bibliographical references. | Summary: “This is the first book to provide a comprehensive overview of the conservation of biological materials used in contemporary art”— Provided by publisher.
- Identifiers: LCCN 2021056356 (print) | LCCN 2021056357 (ebook) | ISBN 9781606066874 (paperback) | ISBN 9781606066881 (mobi) | ISBN 9781606066898 | ISBN 9781606067673 (epub)
- Subjects: LCSH: Art, Modern—20th century—Conservation and Restoration—Congresses. | Art, Modern—21st century—Conservation and Restoration—Congresses. | Artists' Materials—Deterioration—Congresses. | Museum conservation Methods—Congresses.
- Classification: LCC N8554.5 .L58 2019 (print) | LCC N8554.5 (ebook) | DDC 702.8/8—Dc23/eng/20220118
- LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2021056356
- LC ebook record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2021056357
Front cover: Adrián Villar Rojas (Argentinian, b. 1980), from the series The Theater of Disappearance (XIII), 2015–18 (detail). Organic, inorganic, and human- and machine-made matter, 381 × 312.4 × 243.8 cm. Collection of The Bass. © Adrián Villar Rojas. Installation view, Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles, 2017. Studio Michel Zabé, courtesy the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris / London; kurimanzutto, Mexico City; and The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
Getty Conservation Institute
Timothy P. Whalen, John E. and Louise Bryson Director
Jeanne Marie Teutonico, Associate Director, Strategic Initiatives and Publications
The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) works internationally to advance conservation practice in the visual arts—broadly interpreted to include objects, collections, architecture, and sites. The Institute serves the conservation community through scientific research, education and training, field projects, and the dissemination of information. In all its endeavors, the GCI creates and delivers knowledge that contributes to the conservation of the world’s cultural heritage.