Variable States: Intention, Appearance, and Interpretation in Modern Sculpture
October 22-23, 2004
This web site section includes:
• a transcription of the conference proceedings
Conference Transcript (pdf)
• photographs of the event
• images of the works of art discussed in the conference
• photographs of the conference exhibition Variable States:
Three Masterworks of Modern Sculpture
The Nasher Sculpture Center marked its first anniversary with an interdisciplinary conference focused on issues of interpretation and meaning surrounding the variability of physical states in modern sculpture. Co-organized with the J. Paul Getty Museum and funded by the J. Paul Getty Trust, the conference brought together over 130 art historians, conservators, and curators for a fruitful exchange of ideas and information. The conference explored the following main issues:
• How multiple casts and mutable physical states influence
perception and interpretation of a work’s basic character
• Artistic intent toward change in a work’s appearance
• Appropriate conservation in light of artistic intent and
Initial meetings to plan the Variable States conference began in the fall of 2002 at the Nasher Sculpture Center. Participants in early discussions included Raymond Nasher and Steven A. Nash from the Nasher Sculpture Center and Barry Munitz, Peggy Fogelman, and Claire Fronville from the J. Paul Getty Trust and J. Paul Getty Museum. In subsequent meetings, discussions expanded to include other members of both institutions.
Under the direction of Steven A. Nash and Peggy Fogelman, a conference advisory committee was formed including preeminent scholars and conservators in the field of modern sculpture. The committee included: Malcolm Baker (Curator, Victoria and Albert Museum; Professor, University of Southern California; and Special Advisor, Getty Project for the Study of Collecting and Provenance), James Coddington (Chief Conservator, Museum of Modern Art, New York), Penelope Curtis (Curator, Henry Moore Institute), Peggy Fogelman (Assistant Director for Education, J. Paul Getty Museum), Pamela Franks (Curator of Education, Nasher Sculpture Center), Carol Mancusi-Ungaro (Founding Director of the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art at the Harvard University Museums; and Director of Conservation, Whitney Museum of American Art), Steven A. Nash (Director, Nasher Sculpture Center), Derek Pullen (Head of Sculpture Conservation, Tate), and Kirk Varnedoe (Professor, Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton). Claire Fronville, Assistant to the President for Special Projects at the J. Paul Getty Museum, was named administrative coordinator for the conference.
Center Director Steven A. Nash acted as curator for the supporting exhibition, Variable States: Three Masterworks of Modern Sculpture. Included were multiple casts of the following works: The Age of Bronze by Auguste Rodin, Bust of Diego by Alberto Giacometti, and Louis XIV by Jeff Koons. The sculptures in the exhibition served as a springboard for dynamic, object-based examinations and discussions during the entire conference, offering a rare opportunity for close comparison and analysis of related works. The casts differ from one another in important ways, such as materials, patinas, and appearance due to weathering.
The program included prepared introductory papers, gallery discussions video broadcast into the auditorium, and an interactive dialogue between participants and the audience representing multiple viewpoints. The conference yielded new perspectives on the subjects involved and pointed towards new areas for future research. We encourage you to read the transcriptions provided.
The conference began on Friday evening, October 22, with the keynote lecture Why Matter Matters by Adam Gopnik, author, art critic and writer for The New Yorker. In his lecture, Gopnik addressed the secular human ritual of viewing art and, in particular, the impact and meaning for viewers of the physicality of sculpture. Gopnik highlighted the uniqueness of sculpture and opined that its scale, materiality, and three-dimensionality acted more effectively even than other art forms in “changing actual time to cultural time” by inducing, through confrontation with objects, a consciousness of self and historical/cultural place. The lecture led into Saturday’s discussions, in which physicality and time figured prominently as factors in the analysis of changes and inherent differences in the variable states of sculptures, and the different conservation issues involved. (By request of the lecturer, a transcription of the keynote presentation is not available.)
The transcription begins with the conference proceedings on Saturday, October 23. After a brief introduction by Steven A. Nash, the morning session began with two papers, presenting an introduction to the discussion. A Curator’s Point of View was presented by Penelope Curtis, and A Conservator’s Point of View presented by Derek Pullen. Curtis and Pullen completed their presentation with a discussion session with the audience.
These presentations were followed by discussions in the gallery among a group of specialists focused on each of the groups of sculpture in the exhibition. The gallery discussions were broadcast into the auditorium for the audience to hear and observe. Each gallery session was followed by a discussion session with the audience.
The conference was concluded with a panel discussion including all conference panelists, moderated by Steven Nash. A full list of conference panelists is listed at the end of this summary.
The innovative spirit of the conference also included a last-minute addition to the conference proceedings. Jed Morse, Assistant Curator of the Nasher Sculpture Center, gave a powerpoint presentation highlighting a digital scanning project developed between the Center and Van Duzen Archives from Dallas, Texas. For the presentation, the digital scanning focused on Rodin’s The Age of Bronze. It was shown how the scans create a computerized and highly accurate 3-D image of the sculpture which can be used for different diagnostic purposes. The scanning project is a safe, hands-off technique that captures subtle differences between different casts. The application of the digital scanning can be used in many ways and representatives from Van Duzen Archives were available during the lunch break to demonstrate the 3-D software. The text from this report as well as the images from the presentation are included in the transcription.
Presentation Transcript (pdf)
The conference was made possible through the generous support of the J. Paul Getty Trust. We also wish to acknowledge the generosity of the lending institutions whom have participated and allowed the reproductions of works of art as part of this conference web site.
We would like to hear your comments on the conference proceedings and this web site section. Please send an email to: VariableStates@NasherSculptureCenter.org.
Malcolm Baker, Curator, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Professor, University of Southern California
Michael Brenson, Independent Critic
Ruth Butler, Professor, University of Massachusetts at Boston
Penelope Curtis, Curator, Henry Moore Institute
Richard Deacon, Artist
Valerie Fletcher, Curator, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Peggy Fogelman, Assistant Director for Education, J. Paul Getty Museum
Pamela Franks, Curator of Academic Affairs, Yale University Art Gallery
David Getsy, J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellow
Andrew Lins, Conservator, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Hanspeter Marty, Conservator, Kunsthaus Zürich
Steven Nash, Director, Nasher Sculpture Center
Derek Pullen, Conservator, Tate
Joel Shapiro, Artist
Véronique Wiesinger, Director, Alberto and Annette Giacometti Foundation, Paris
Julie Wolfe, Conservator, J. Paul Getty Museum
Age of Bronze, Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Dallas, Texas
Age of Bronze, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Age of Bronze, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Age of Bronze, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for the Visual Arts at Stanford University
Bust of Diego, Raymond and Patsy Nasher Collection, Dallas, Texas
Bust of Diego, Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
Bust of Diego, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Louis XIV, RDN and PRN Foundation
Louis XIV, The Broad Art Foundation, Santa Monica
Panelist Ruth Butler discusses the history of The Age of Bronze (Moderator Malcolm Baker in background)
Moderator Malcolm Baker highlights the surface of The Age of Bronze (with panelist Joel Shapiro)
Panelists Ruth Butler, David Getsy and Andrew Lins discuss the patina on The Age of Bronze (Moderator Malcolm Baker holds flashlight)
Panelists compare the surfaces on two versions of the The Age of Bronze
(l to r) Véronique Weisinger, Hanspeter Marty, Derek Pullen, Joel Shapiro, Michael Brenson
Shelley Sturman from the National Gallery of Art raises a topic for discussion
Richard Deacon and Malcolm Baker in discussion after the gallery session on Jeff Koons' Louis XIV
Penelope Curtis answers a question from the audience
Moderator Malcolm Baker
Eleanora Nagy from the Guggenheim raises discussion on conservation issues and artist intent
Panelist David Getsy answers a question from the audience (Panelist Véronique Weisinger looks on)
Glenn Wharton from New York University asks a question
Variable States Exhibition (Exterior View)
Variable States Exhibition (Interior View)
Variable States Exhibition (Rear Interior View)
Variable States Exhibition (Rodin Group)
Variable States Exhibition (Giacometti Group)
Variable States Exhibition (Koons Group)