INCCA Talk: Challenges in Conservation of Contemporary Art Works in India

Posted on Sat, 04/01/2023 - 13:25

Date and time



20th April 2023

Delhi 4pm/Amsterdam 12.30pm/London 11.30am/Gweru 12.30pm/Seoul 7.30pm/Mexico City 4.30am/LA 3.30am

With the availability and use of a wide variety of modern materials for an artist, the conservation of contemporary artwork becomes challenging. While an artist encompasses deeper meanings and thought processes in their work, the durability of the art work might face threats due to the inherent properties of the materials used or the way it’s been constructed. The value of the art, for an artist, might be in the thought process and not exactly in the materials used.

A conservator on the other hand, has to decide how to preserve harmony between an artist's original thought process and its product. We have to come up with suitable treatment methods for maintaining the structural and aesthetic integrity of the artist's expression. The case studies referred herein encompass such works, where we faced challenges in retaining the original value as well as maintaining physical integrity, when original materials used for making the work itself accelerate the degradation process. In the first case study ,we look at a unique 3d art work depecting a human figure, the object seemed to have had extensive damages in form of loss of material from its body, only to later realise it was how the artist intended it to be.

We see how the commonly followed treatment protocols for conserving paintings were not suitable for the second case study in question,which is a painting, as the paint layer would have been jeopardised by using mechanical pressure for cleaning or solvent cleaning. Therefore, a different treatment idea was adapted for curbing the problems occurring in the painting, which has been illustrated in the presentation.

Similarly, the third case study is about a very fragile metal installation where the conservator was faced with the challenge of retaining the damaging elements of an art work by adding elements shielding it from further damages and maintaining the artist vision.

The fourth case study is about a terracota object which disintegrated into many fragments. Restoring the entire part became difficult, as conseptualising the art work without a reference  was the initial challenge we faced then a surprise element was given to us which doubled the challenge  further.

A conservator’s decision of prioritising structural stability as well as retaining the complex art concepts has been showcased in our presentation. Another challenges faced are the aspects of preservation of the artwork, as well as guiding an art collector towards the post conservation care and display approaches for longevity of his collection.


Subrata Sen - Art Conservator (Senior Coordinator at INTACH (ICI) Delhi)

Mr. Subrata Sen is presently working with the INTACH Conservation Institute as a Senior Coordinator. He has been associated with the INTACH Art and Material Heritage Division since 2008. He holds a bachelor's degree in Fine arts, specialising in sculpture, from Indira Kala Sangit Vishwavidyala, Khairagarh, C.G., and a Master's degree in Art Conservation from the National Museum Institute. He was also awarded the Charles Wallace India Trust Conservation Scholarship in 2010-2011, where he did his internship at the British Museum (Stone, Wall Paintings, and Mosaics Conservation Studio). He has coordinated many wall painting conservation projects in Ladhak as well as the restoration of the Flora Fountain in Mumbai. At ICI INTACH, he predominantly works with 3D objects, especially contemporary art works, including sculptures, paintings, installations, etc. 

Merrin Anil - Art Conservator (Centre Coordinator at INTACH (ICI) Delhi) 

Ms. Merrin Anil is presently working with the INTACH Conservation Institute as the Center Coordinator. She has been associated with the INTACH Art and Material Heritage Division since 2013. She has a bachelor's degree in History honours from Delhi University and a Master's degree in art conservation from the National Museum Institute. She was awarded the Indian Conservation Fellowship in 2017, where she worked with polychrome sculptures at SRAL (Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg) in Maastricht. She has coordinated many wall painting conservation projects, including wall paintings in Kirti Mandir, Gujarat, executed by Nandlal Bose, an eminent Indian artist, as well as the conservation of museum objects in the collection of the Museum of Christian Art, Goa. At ICI INTACH, she is involved with the conservation of 3D objects and paintings.

Photo Copyright: ©INTACH Conservation Institutes, Delhi

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