PHILIPPE PARRENO: Water Lilies, 2012 – Präsentation im Teich der Fondation Beyeler.
Markus Gross, Chefrestaurator der Fondation Beyeler, bei der Reinigung der Plexiglaskomponente der Water Lilies.
preserving MODERN aND contemporary art
“Does such a recent piece really already require conservation?”
Contrary to expectations, the care and preservation of modern and contemporary art calls for alternative conservation approaches that differ from those applied for “classic” artworks. The challenge lies primarily in the diversity of materials used by artists in their works. These materials cover a wide spectrum: plastics of all types, metals, electric devices, digital technology, videos of performance art, light installations, or perishable materials such as foodstuff and plants.
The critical aspect of using complex combinations of materials is the varying ageing process of the individual components, which requires specific conservation and restoration care.
French artist Philippe Parreno (*1964) is represented in the collection of the Fondation Beyeler with prints and sculptures as well as video, light and sound installations. One of his most fascinating works, Water Lilies (2012), can be found at the entrance of the museum, in the pond by the wide window front of the Renzo Piano building. The sound installation appears to visitors only as ring-shaped vibration ripples on the water surface that are evocative of water lilies. How are these vibrations generated in the water? What technology and electronic components are required? How can an artwork immersed in water be cared for and preserved?
The challenges of conservation
In the video, the Fondation Beyeler team uses Philippe Parreno’s sound installation Water Lilies to illustrate the complex challenges facing conservators in caring for contemporary art. What problems arise when plastics, metals and electric devices are exposed to water over many years? Which materials are still original, and which components must be replaced in order to ensure the work’s functionality? How can the artist’s intentions best be mantained? And what to do when pieces of equipment, e.g. the amplifiers used for sound transmission, are no longer commercially available?