Authenticity and Art as Object

April 2016

In April 2016, History of Art graduate students and faculty participated in a workshop with colleagues at the PMA from the conservation, education, and curatorial departments (Chris Atkins, Terry Lignelli, Jenevieve de los Santos, and Mark Tucker). The theme was the problem of "authenticity" in conservation interventions in works of art from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries, with emphasis on panel painting and artistic process in the workshop. Discussions revolved around the questions of what we might gain by attending to works of art in person (as opposed to, for example, confrontation with works digitally), as well as the interpretative possibilities and pitfalls of close looking, a method that understandably has a problematic historiographic legacy. Through a series of exercises ranging from sessions in the galleries to examination of paintings in the conservation studio, the graduate students devised some working concepts, terms, and methods related to the multidimensionality of art works.  Problems and issues included framing, reverse of paintings, hangings and height, surface and texture, scale, and lighting. The students were also introduced to a number of professional pathways in the fields of conservation, curation, and museum education and invited to imagine points of future collaboration between the art history department and colleagues at the PMA.

The workshop culminated in the publication of Authenticity and Art as Object: A Handbook of Terms, edited by David Young Kim, with entries written by the graduate student participants.