Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Going, going, gone?

Art losses "worse than expected", according to latest global report
The art world is reeling from fresh revelations of the extent and pace of a destructive fungal growth that has been afflicting galleries worldwide.

A new report gathering data from hundreds of smaller studies and national bodies has revealed that tens of thousands of priceless pieces are at risk; some have already disintegrated under the relentless mould attack. The report, known as the Global Art Outlook is not the first time attention has been drawn to this situation, but the authoritative publication offers a global picture of just how rapidly the mould is spreading, demonstrating the failure of government and private action to slow the infestation to date.

An agreement back in 2002 to slow the rate of artistic decline and preserve art treasures at a global, national and regional level has not been kept, according to the report. Curators estimate that without drastic action, somewhere between 30 and 70% of all artworks could be lost over the coming decades. Metallic and stone sculptures are slightly more resistant, but paintings have been decimated. Oil canvasses are particularly vulnerable, and many well-known masterpieces are showing signs of the dreaded mould. High profile campaigns have saved a few, but art lovers despair at maintaining sufficient public interest for the thousands upon thousands of lesser known works.

In a joint statement following the release of the report, the Directors and Chief Curators of twelve of the world's most iconic galleries, including the Louvre, MoMA and London's National Gallery, warned, "This is a wake up call to humanity. We need a new vision for preserving artistic diversity from this mould."

Critics of the report were quick to remind the public of "Pollockgate", the controversy over a 2005 study which claimed that the works of noted artist Jackson Pollock were on the brink of mouldy disintegration. This study was later retracted when it was discovered that the variegated blotchy patches associated with the infestation were actually part of his work.

The share price of major European tour companies took a hit this morning when it was revealed that even major galleries like the Uffizi or Louvre could suffer a sudden disintegration of most of their art. Google rallied 3% on the strength of its digital libraries.

But local art critics warned that reliance on virtual art would undermine preservation and restoration of originals. "Once these pieces are gone, they are gone forever. Yes, we'll have photos of them, and memories, and in some cases even copies, but the world will be a much poorer place without The Scream or the Sistine Chapel, without anything directly from the hand of Dali or Da Vinci."

Despite these warnings, much of the public remains ignorant, apathetic or even sceptical of the scale of the problem. A recent poll found that 94% of respondents could not distinguish a Klee from a Klimt, and 71% said there was too much media focus on art problems that affect only a small segment of the population. One man, interviewed outside the Scottish National Gallery this morning said, "I haven't seen any works distintegrate and the local art gallery still seems to be open, not that I've ever been. Who needs all these artworks anyway? It's just a few paintings, it's not the end of the world. And besides, what's so bad about a fungus? I like mushrooms. Don't we need mould to bread down compost and other waste organic matter?"

The full report can be read here, or you can find a Guardian article here.
Anyone still scratching their head should make sure they look at the report I have linked to (yes, I know it is large, and yes, I know it is not about art). If all else fails, read my next post.


Anthony Douglas said...

Was the tower of Babel a sculpture? ;-)

Hard to know whether to mourn the potential loss of the creative product of God's gifting, or rejoice in the reminder of the impermanence of human endeavour.

Unknown said...

When you put it that way, it makes our inaction seem pretty stupid. Thanks for the amusing (and disturbing!) read.