Tate has been awarded $1.5 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a major research initiative that will develop innovative models for the conservation and management of recent and contemporary works of art. The award is the largest single research grant made to Tate and is for a three-and-a-half year period from January 2018.
The initiative, Reshaping the Collectible: When Artworks Live in the Museum, builds on Tate’s pioneering research and expertise in this area of conservation; responding to Tate’s bold acquisitions policy. It will contribute to theory and practice in collection care, curation and museum management, and will focus on recent and contemporary artworks which challenge the structures of the museum - such as time-based media, performative, live and digital art.
Maria Balshaw said: ‘Tate was the first museum to collect live and performance art and the first to recognise the need to develop time-based media conservation. The ways in which artists are working today mean we must deepen our expertise and look at how museums need to change. Thanks to support from the Mellon Foundation, this initiative will transform the way we meet the challenges at the forefront of artistic practice today. It will bring together pioneering practitioners and thinkers to reshape capacity to respond flexibly and with dynamism.’
The research will be grounded in six case studies drawn from works in the Tate collection; works which unfold over time and exist in multiple forms. These challenge the boundaries between artwork, record and archive and rely on complex networks of people, skills and technologies outside of the museum. The research team will work in partnership with a range of senior academics from around the world who are positioned to open up new areas of scholarship.
The initiative will host four visiting fellowships and one collaborative doctoral award with the University of Maastricht. The programme of activity will include a series of public keynote presentations, workshops and the production of a range of material for audiences, opening the lid on how museums work.
This interdisciplinary and collaborative project will be led by Tate’s Collection Care division and involve staff from across the museum. Principal investigator, Professor Pip Laurenson, Head of Collection Care Research at Tate, will lead the research and direct the work of the multi-disciplinary project team. Professor Laurenson said: ‘At the heart of this initiative is a desire to open up the museum and provide a generous invitation to our public, making visible the invisible lives of these artworks as they unfold within, and in dialogue with, the museum.’
Rosemary Lynch, Director of Collection Care said: ‘This generous and multi-faceted grant will not only enable us to enhance our research and practice in conservation, documentation and collection management, but also allow our audiences to see the diverse range of skills involved in caring for extraordinary art works in a contemporary museum. As well as providing new ways into art, we hope this will open a door into careers in our sector and encourage equally diverse young people to step through.’