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Deterioration in Art

What's it mean to make art that won't necessarily last? Pollack's paintings supposedly shed paint chips. Experiment leads to deterioration, e.g. Da Vinci's Last Supper -- some things survive in myth.

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Latest Activity: Sep 18, 2012

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A Survey for Painters, like you...

Started by Artist Exchange May 5, 2009.

Random Thoughts.

Started by Deirdre A. Fox Oct 11, 2008.

How do you use deterioration/decay? 30 Replies

Started by Deirdre A. Fox. Last reply by Catherine Mascrès May 16, 2008.

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Comment by PETIT DELOR on February 26, 2011 at 21:19

Une très mauvaise photo d'une fabuleuse oeuvre d'Art; est-ce de la deterioration ?

Comment by PETIT DELOR on January 10, 2010 at 20:18

Comment by tinteart - chocolate paintings! on July 4, 2009 at 21:40
Greeting art folk! As someone who uses chocolate in their art, deteriation is a top topic. I'm not going to say concern because I dont feel like it necessarily is one. They are suprisingly durable if treated with care, and its that very care that makes them important to each individual. Also, each canvas has a life and personality of its own, with regards to my art and every canvas out there! I agree that nothing last forever, all the more reason to enjoy now while you can
Comment by Brenden Jemison on May 11, 2009 at 19:29
Hi All,
I paint with acylics and for staters even the lab types at Golden cannot be certain that any acrylic will remain stable, either for color or overall integrity. In addition I have a series of paintings I have been producing for about 6 years now that are on newspaper, generally the N.Y. Times. Generally I make no archival concession for using this support and frankly am unconcerned, if acrylic is ultimatley stable for hundreds of years, at least similar to oil, I feel there should be no cause for concern. Ultimately my work may deteriorate and if so that will be what it is, nothing last forever.
Comment by Deirdre A. Fox on May 3, 2008 at 19:40
Hi, Keith.

The issue of collectors' complaints (and nowadays, potential law suits) is already one out there a long time now, but for really ground breaking work, it does not seem to be a big deal and is part and parcel of work with new materials/methods.

Da Vinci's Last Supper started deteriorating almost right away. I'd guess, though don't know, Braque/Picasso cubist collages present conservation dilemmas. Pollack paintings shed chips. At least one of Rothko's paintings has had the red and the green color fields switch places. Nowadays, there's not the same excuse with acrylics as there once was, as the paints/media have been made more archival, but there are still artists using house paint or poor technique (e.g. acrylic on top of oil). Other famous artists have had inexcusably poor technique when it comes to longevity of their work -- at least some of Mondrian's painting apparently crackled within 20 years of being made (the antithesis of his philosophical goals) according to one of my former professors.

On some level, I think it's a risk a collector takes, and the collector should ask a lot of questions about longevity, and the defects leading to deterioration should not be latent. After hundreds of years of their use being perfected since Van Dyke, people rightly assume oil paintings will last a long time, with proper climate control, so if they rapidly crackle, chip quickly because of poor technique, it's inexcusable; on the other hand, should one presume longevity of a painting/painting support that has very thick sand filled paint (that may never dry in the inner layers) or has sections of raw canvas belying whether the canvas was every treated with a size before oils were applied or clearly is a mish mash of all sorts of materials/paint/supports? How much can be "sealed" in?

I've come to the point of embracing the inevitability of some level of deterioration as long as it's not latent/unknowable. It's best if the decay is conceptually consistent with the work (as opposed to the irony re Mondrian).

I am interested in playing with permanence and impermanence. I like the weathering of a piece as being part of its evolution, despite the hurdle this can pose for sales and the conservation dilemma it poses for collectors.

For example, I use sometimes use newspaper as a substrate (for dry processes). It will yellow and deteriorate; no one is being fooled, though surprisingly, with proper care, newspaper can last a long time. I also do a fair bit of site specific installation work, which by its nature is perpetuated in documentation rather than it's own existence. The documentation is as archival as I can make it (archival inks, etc).
Comment by Keith Climpson on May 3, 2008 at 4:40
Hi again Deirdre
Your comments about my work possibly deteriorating over time are valid. I am always mindful of the archival qualities of the art I make, especially as I believe it is a very neglected area amongst many contemporary artists.
I do usually seal my wooden structures with Rabbit Skin Glue and when using Plywood I use "marine" ply which is much more hardy in terms of exposure to moisture etc.
The archival quality of my works is something I take into account when selling works.
For instance, the small works I am currently making (as in the one you commented on) I see as maquettes to acertain degree. They are intended for an upcoming solo exhibition which I am calling "Playful" emphasising the nature of how the works were made. Therefore the archival quality of these works has not been at the forefront of my mind when making them and they price of them will reflect this. I actually see these works as "objects" in a way that have a life of their own and the ageing/weathering of them through time will form part of their evolution.
However, generally I agree with your interest/concerns regarding the issue of deterioration in art.
Many artists I know do not have any concerns with regard to the archival nature of their works, they believe that is for others to worry about further down the track. The main concern I have with that attitude is when it comes to large sums of money being paid by unknowing collectors. What happens when the work falls apart in 20 years time? I think there will be many law suits in the future over this issue.
What are your thoughts on this?

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