ARTISTS CREATE THEIR ARTWORK WITH DESIGN OBJECTS AND READY-MADE DECORATION ACCESSORIES. CONSERVATION CHALLENGES WITHIN AN INSTALLATION BY ISA GENZKEN.
BY KATHRIN KESSLER
Isa Genzken is a German contemporary sculptor (born 1948). In preparation for an extensive retrospective of the artist at Museum Ludwig, curators and conservators were confronted with the fragile and complex art work of Isa Genzken, especially in her installation Kinder filmen (“Children filming”) 2005, which has belonged to the museum’s collection since right after its creation in 2006.
Kinder filmen was created with toys, puppets, furniture, design objects and home decoration accessories. The choice of materials and objects, and their application in the installation, are very important to the artist and the intention of her artwork. The artist chose these individual elements spontaneously as she found them, regardless of their age, material, technical suitability, general quality and condition, manufacturing or application, and brought them together to create her installation. This artistic independence is crucial for the artist; it defines her artistic practice and therefore was crucial for the curators and conservators at Museum Ludwig.
From the very beginning, and continuing to the present day, the installation needs conservation care and treatment: foam inside a toy crumbles, a light chain and other technical equipment fail, and plastic elements degrade and result in losses.
This article introduces briefly the range of objects in the collection of Museum Ludwig and the variety of the artwork created by Isa Genzken in general. Then the article reports examples from the processes, changes and challenges within the installation Kinder filmen from its creation and first performance in an art gallery in Cologne on its way into the museum’s gallery. This includes finding presentation options and conservation approaches in order to follow a mutually acceptable way for the artist, the curator and the conservator to preserve and present this installation in the longterm.
In the end the article raises several general questions regarding the procedure when acquiring new art and whether the conservator can be the assistant of the artist.