A Conservator Talks About the Challenges of Preserving Plastic in Art

On March 8, art conservator Thea van Oosten will give a talk at the Institute of Fine Arts on the obstacles in preserving plastic art and design objects.

Amy Brener, “Shanty” (2014) in Greater New York, MoMA PS1, 2015–16 (photo by Benjamin Sutton for Hyperallergic)

I associate plastics with superfluous packaging, ugly toys, and being bad for the environment. Generally serving as a discardable layer of some consumable good, plastic does not appear to be an especially valuable material, and yet, much as it’s invaded most every daily product, it has also made its way into priceless works of art.

On Wednesday, Thea van Oosten, a Judith Praska Distinguished Visiting Professor in Conservation at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, will give a talk on the obstacles in conserving plastic art objects in museum collections. Now around for a little over a century, plastic is regularly built into sculptures, textiles, and design objects. And while the material is notorious for not decomposing easily and being environmentally noxious, plastic is actually difficult to preserve, getting sticky and even smelly over time. In her talk “Plastics in Modern and Contemporary Art: Meant to Last Forever?” van Oosten, who specializes in the conservation of modern and contemporary art and design, will ask and attempt to answer: “How can a polymer scientist help conservators to keep for longer what is bound to break and crumble?”

When: Wednesday, March 8, 6pm
Where: Institute of Fine Arts at New York University (1 East 78th St, Upper East Side, Manhattan)

RSVP is required as seating is limited. There will be a live stream in an adjacent room to accommodate overflow. These seats are first-come, first-served.

More info here

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