This three-year international research network funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) aims to develop joint research projects and a training curriculum on the theory, methodology and ethics of the conservation of contemporary art.

Logo for the Network for Conservation of Contemporary Art Research

Contemporary artworks are particularly difficult to preserve. Very often they consist of degradable materials, or involve technologies that become obsolete very rapidly. Many works are created for specific locations and can change their meaning when they travel to other contexts. Artworks may also require a specific performance of the artist or the audience in order to function and therefore differ from event to event. New media works may change considerably when they migrate to new systems.

Standard conservation theory and ethics start from the assumption that artworks should be preserved in their original state. As they do not recognise the inherent variability of most contemporary artworks, they do not provide adequate guidelines for their conservation. There is at present much case-based, practice-oriented research done by museums and other heritage institutions, facilitated through international professional networks. Theory development, however, is still fragmentary and scattered between many different universities, museums and heritage institutions in various countries.

Museums and other heritage organisations are aware of the problem and undertake research projects and establish networks to develop viable alternative strategies for contemporary art conservation. These projects primarily aim to solve particular conservation problems and develop practical tools, such as models for registration, documentation or decision-making. At the same time, there are a growing number of research projects (very often in the form of PhD research) aiming at systematic reflection on the theoretical and ethical problems posed by contemporary art conservation.

The Network for Conservation of Contemporary Art Research brings together established and emerging academic and professional research centres and groups in order to:

  • Critically assess new approaches to the conservation of contemporary art
  • Set an international research agenda
  • Enable young researchers to investigate the theoretical, methodological and ethical dimensions in the conservation of contemporary art in close connection to conservation practice.

At the 2010 conference Contemporary Art: Who Cares? a PhD and postdoctoral network was initiated. The network currently consists of 71 members from over 30 organisations in 14 countries. This project closely collaborates with this network and provides it with institutional and scholarly support. It aims to create a sustained collaboration between senior researchers and research groups at universities, museums and other research institutions in order to develop joint research projects in the context of an international research training programme for young researchers.

A student using a film camera, with her back to mannequin model heads

Conservation of Contemporary Art student of the University of Amsterdam recording an artist’s interview with Joep van Lieshout at his studio, Atelier van Lieshout, Rotterdam

Photo: Sanneke Stigter

Two conservators examining a black box of electronics

Examination of electronic display sign as used in the work of Jenny Holzer at the University of Amsterdam’s Conservation of Contemporary Art course.

Photo: Sanneke Stigter

The project will organise 3 expert meetings spread over 3 years. The meetings will have the following purposes:

  • Present and thoroughly discuss current research in progress, including special sessions for PhD work
  • Provide a state of the art review and critical assessment of theoretical and methodological research
  • Discuss the relevance of current conservation theory for conservation practice with curators and conservators
  • Prepare peer-reviewed international publications on the themes of the meetings
  • Develop a grant proposal for a Marie Curie Initial Training Network (ITN).

For more information about the project email Prof. Dr. Renée van de Vall: r.vandevall@maastrichtuniversity.nl   

Next conferences

Authenticity in Transition: Changing Practices in Contemporary Art Making and Conservation

1–2 December 2014
Glasgow
This Conference is supported by the Network for Conservation of Contemporary Art Research and funded by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

Call for Papers

We welcome papers for 25-minute presentations, as well as short 5-minute papers relating to posters and PhD research. We also invite presentations and performances from artists around the theme of the conference. Papers will be peer-reviewed and selected papers will be published. Please send your 250-word abstracts (for talk or poster) and your contact details to Erma.Hermens@Glasgow.ac.uk by the 31 July 2014.

Call for Papers [PDF, 328kb]

Past conferences

Cultures of Conservation: Milan 2012

Performing Documentation in the Conservation of Contemporary Art: Lisbon 2013

Project funded by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research

Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research logo
A group photograph

Group shot of NeCCAR partners during the Cultures of Conservation Meeting, Milan, 2012

NeCCAR Partners

The Netherlands

Prof. Dr. Renée van de Vall and Dr. Vivian van Saaze, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, Maastricht University

Dr. Julia Noordegraaf, Director of Studies of the MA Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam

Sanneke Stigter, Coordinator and Lecturer Contemporary Art Conservation and PhD Candidate, Department of Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands

Italy

Marina Pugliese, Director of the Museo del Novecento and the Polo del Novecento e Arte Contemporanea in Milan

Barbara Ferriani, Head of the Conservation Department at the Triennale Design Museum of Milan, Lecturer at the Ca’Foscari University of Venice

Dr. Paolo Martore, independent researcher and teaching assistant for History of Contemporary Art at the Faculty of Conservazione dei Beni Culturali of the Tuscia University

Dr. Mattia Patti, University Researcher in Contemporary Art History, at the Department of History of Art, University of Pisa

Portugal

Dr. Rita Macedo, Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art History at the Department of Conservation and Restoration, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia

Dr. Lúcia Almeida Matos, Assistant Professor of Art Studies and Director of the Graduate Program in Museum Studies and Curatorship at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Porto

Dr. Rita Macedo and Dr. Lúcia Almeida Matos are members of the research project Documentation of Contemporary Art (DCA), funded by FCT (Foundation for Science and Technology)

Germany

Prof. Dr. Gunnar Heydenreich, Professor for Conservation of Modern and Contemporary Art at Cologne Institute of Conservation Sciences / University of Applied Sciences (CICS)

United Kingdom

Dr. Alison Bracker, Art Historian, Royal Academy of Arts, London

Dr. Erma Hermens, Lecturer and Co-ordinator of Technical Art History, University of Glasgow

Dr. Pip Laurenson, Head of Collection Care Research, Tate, London

Associated partners

Dr. Glenn Wharton, Time-Based Media Conservator, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York and Research Scholar, New York University (NYU)

Project Information

Project type: 
Lead department(s): 
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Project leader: 
Prof. Renée van de Vall, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, Maastricht University, The Netherlands