The conference explored the following issues:
- How multiple casts and mutable physical states influence perception and interpretation of a work’s basic character and meaning.
- Artistic intent toward change in a work’s appearance.
- Appropriate conservation in light of artistic intent and change.
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 toward 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, andA 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.
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 that have participated and allowed the reproductions of works of art as part of this conference website.
The Age of Bronze Digital Scanning Project
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