Still Life : Ecologies of the Modern Imagination at the Art Museum

Still Life : Ecologies of the Modern Imagination at the Art Museum


How do you keep the cracks in Starry Night from spreading? How do you prevent artworks made of hugs or candies from disappearing? How do you render a fading photograph eternal--or should you attempt it at all? These are some of the questions that conservators, curators, registrars, and exhibition designers dealing with contemporary art face on a daily basis. In Still Life, Fernando Dominguez Rubio delves into one of the most important museums of the world, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, to explore the day-to-day dilemmas that museums workers face when the immortal artworks that we see in the exhibition room reveal themselves to be slowly unfolding disasters.

Still Life offers a fascinating and detailed ethnographic account of what it takes to prevent these disasters from happening. Going behind the scenes at MoMA, Dominguez Rubio provides a rare view of the vast technological apparatus--from climatic infrastructures and storage facilities, to conservation labs and machines rooms--and teams of workers--from conservators and engineers to guards and couriers--who fight to hold artworks still.

As the MoMA reopens after massive expansion and rearranging of its space and collections, Still Life not only offers a much-needed account of the spaces, actors, and forms of labor traditionally left out of the main narratives of art, but it also offers a timely meditation on how far we, as a society, are willing to go to keep the things we value from disappearing into oblivion.

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