Art restorers share their top tips for collectors


Film and video, known as “time-based media” to conservators, have their own quirks for collectors because art is indebted to the technology available at the time of its creation. Film can degrade or burn, VHS tapes can warp, and digital files can get corrupted. Many artists working in digital media often support upgrading their files to the latest format and resolution. In these cases, collectors simply have to keep up with changing technology to maintain their work. In cases where artists are working with 16mm film or other analog formats, collectors should ask if a high resolution digital scan of the work is available.

“If an artist stipulates that their 16mm film can only be exhibited when projected on film, the Whitney will ensure that we have or have access to negative material or an approved digital scan from which new prints can be extracted “Neary said. “Similarly, if an artist is creating software-based or web-based artwork using now-obsolete applications, it will be through discussion with the artist and conservators that we will decide how best to reproduce or document on video the experience of the work.”

Ultimately, collectors should establish a dialogue with artists or estates about their time-based works upon acquisition, as this will save them the future headache of trying to make legacy media work. with the equipment of tomorrow. As Skopek said, “All media can have condition problems, and nothing is free from the effects of the passage of time, but with proper care many of these problems can be avoided. These are more about how you take care of it than what it’s made of.

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