Artist Documentation Program
Over time, as the physical aspects of a work of art change in response to natural (and occasionally unnatural) phenomena and events, perceptions of how it “should” look may begin to diverge. Researching a work’s original intentions then becomes critical€”especially for conservators, whose intervention invariably determines its long-term health and appearance. Today, given the absence of a professional consensus on what constitutes appropriate aging and acceptable damage for modern works, artists themselves are often the best authorities in evaluating the current condition of their work and in identifying the tangible qualities that should– and can– be preserved.
With these issues in mind, former Menil chief curator Carol Mancusi-Ungaro began filming artists with specific works of art, recording their attitudes and feelings toward the inevitable aging of their creations. Furthering this bold initiative, the Menil in 1990 established the Artists Documentation Program, with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. These filmed interviews continue to be an important part of the Conservation department’s work. Intended specifically for research, they form an archive that resides at the Menil Collection and remains accessible to conservators and other scholars.