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Subject: Displaying brass in water

Displaying brass in water

From: David Harvey <top10denverdave>
Date: Saturday, May 31, 2003
Lynn Campbell <lynn.campbell [at] ccc__govt__nz> writes

>There has been a proposal to display a brass art work in a pool of
>water at our gallery.  ...
>... any advice on this topic for
>my report on the proposal would be most useful. Can anyone help?

To my mind the question here is one of intent. Is this
display/exhibition idea part of the artist's intent--done by their
request and vision of how their work should be presented? Or is this
proposal being initiated by museum staff?

I know that here in the States that the question of artistic intent
and rights under US Copyright law are clear--that anything that is
proposed that may either aesthetically or materially affect a living
or even dead artist's work (70 years after the work's creation) has
to be done with express permission.

It also all depends on how the work is to be viewed. I have seen
some wonderful simulations of archeological artifacts, for example,
from shipwrecks that were placed on exhibit with a simulated water
effect built-in that was very effective.

If this is not the intent of the artist then I would really hesitate
to submerge the brass object into a pool of water. Sure, you can try
to control the water quality but you are still placing it into an
electrolyte and it will certainly deteriorate faster than it would
if it were not submerged. Maintaining that water quality will
involve some engineering and staff monitoring - resources that might
otherwise be more wisely used elsewhere. Just to note here--far
greater damage occurs to metals that are half immersed--exposed to
both water and air--so if this is the case then the piece will most
assuredly corrode.

If this is the artist's intent then as long as they know the
potential risks to the piece it is pretty much their vision that is
being carried forth and that must be respected. Still, the idea of
some sort of water simulation could be explored and might end up
being satisfactory for all involved.

David Harvey
Artifacts
2930 South Birch Street
Denver, CO  80222
303-300-5257


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                  Conservation DistList Instance 16:77
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Received on Saturday, 31 May, 2003

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