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Contemporary Art Conservation

Description of the research group

The aim is to bring together researchers from various disciplines for a holistic approach, and to welcome new partners for future projects in contemporary art conservation research. On the one hand topics include fundamental research on material based problems in conservation, for instance on adhering of transparent plastics, the cleaning of modern oil paints, and the identification of modern photographs, while on the other hand research projects focus more on methodological issues and ontological questions about conservation, for instance on the role of the conservator at the museum and in the lives of artworks.  

Projects and Initiatives 

  • NACCA (New Approaches in the Conservation of Contemporary Art)

    NACCA is an EU-funded Marie Curie ITN programme coordinated by Maastricht University. NACCA is a research and training programme around 15 PhD projects, each investigating different, as yet under-explored aspects of contemporary art conservation. PhD Research projects are ongoing. 

  • CMOP (Cleaning of Modern Oil Paints)

    CMOP is an EU-funded collaborative project with RCE, Tate, the Courtauld Institute and the University of Pisa. This project aims to make a significant impact on our understanding of the reasons behind the alarming problems by exploring several aspects of paint formulations. PhD Research project is ongoing. 

  • Preservation of Plastics 

    Preservation of Plastics is a long term project of the Getty Conservation Institute (CGI) dedicated to advancing the conservation of plastics in order to support professionals in the field facing the significant challenges posed by these materials. PhD Research project in collaboration with the UvA is ongoing. 

  • Project Collection Knowledge 2.0: Photography 

    The SBMK Project Photography is a joint research project of the SBMK, UvA, RCE and sixteen museums, carried out under the umbrella of NICAS. The aim of this three year project is to sustainably preserve photographic works of art in Dutch collections for the future, and as such, to make them accessible to the general public. 

  • STUDIOTOPIA 

    STUDIOTOPIA is a European initiative that seeks to inspire transdisciplinary innovation in addressing the ecological implications of the Anthropocene. Through an Art & Science Residency programme researchers and artists work together towards improving the sustainability of conservation, contributing to the EU Sustainable Development Goals.  

  • Interviews in Conservation Initiative 

    The Interviews in Conservation Initiative is a non-funded initiative that aims facilitate the use of oral history methods in conservation research. This includes sharing of material and information, initiating ongoing research to improve good practice, digital tools and a research infrastructure to facilitate working with the spoken narrative about works of art and art related practices, while advancing this approach in a productive, intelligent and responsible manner. 

Envisaged results 

The Research Group is ongoing and will include completion of PhD projects that are currently under way, while new PhD projects are being developed, for example within the SBMK Project Photography, newly planned projects, and relevant projects are also welcome through external funding. Publications, master classes, conferences and expert meetings will be organized at irregular intervals relating to ongoing research and depending on external funding. 

The envisaged results of the research group are, apart from PhD research, publications of books, chapters and articles, also based in less traditional ways of sharing expertise for broader dissemination, for example in exhibitions, tool-kits and interactive platforms. In addition, the consolidation of the international networks in contemporary art conservation as well as the formation of new networks is planned, with the aim of new applications for external funding for new national (NWO) and international (EU) research projects. 

Societal relevance 

As contemporary artworks have become increasingly complex, new strategies on how to preserve work that is hybrid in form or ephemeral in nature have become vital for their future. At the same time there is a continuous need for material based research following from technological advancements in the industry. However, aside from research into modern materials and electronic media, areas which keep on challenging contemporary art conservation, research into the conceptual nature of contemporary artworks is essential to approach the ever changing forms in which contemporary art becomes manifest. Many artworks cannot be preserved by simply putting them in storage. They need active engagement in order to keep them alive when installing, performing, or producing the work for the audience. This calls for a shift from object-based research to process-based research in order to relate the material and technical issues to conceptual and situational factors, which, moreover, may change over time and differ with context. In doing so, the research group collaborates closely with museums and other collecting institutions to validate research findings and to actually help preserve complex contemporary artworks for the future. 

Research Group Type: Network & Project group 
Duration: 2021-2025

Group Coordinator

Dr. S. (Sanneke) Stigter

Faculty of Humanities

Capaciteitsgroep Conservering en Restauratie

Members of the research group

Prof. dr. Klaas Jan van den Berg, UvA | RCE 
Prof. dr. Maarten van Bommel, UvA 
dr. Annet Dekker, UvA  
Prof. dr. Sven Dupré, UvA | UU  
Prof. dr. Ella Hendriks, UvA 
Ellen. Jansen, MA PD Res, UvA 
Anna Laganà, MA, UvA | GCI 
Kathrin Pietsch, UvA 
Claudia Roeck, UvA 
Dr. Tatja Scholte, RCE 
Dr. Vivian van Saaze, UM 
Evelyne Snijders, UvA 
Lise Steyn, MA PD Res, UvA  
Prof. dr. Renée van de Vall, UM 
Clara von Waldthausen, MA, UvA 

Institutional or professional partners 

  • GCI, Getty Conservation Institute  
  • INCCA, International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art 
  • LIMA, Platform for Media Art 
  • UM, Maastricht University 
  • NICAS, Netherlands Institute for Conservation+Art+Science 
  • RCE, Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands 
  • SBMK, Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art 
  • UU, Utrecht University