Will Shank
The Plight of the Exterior Contemporary Mural: A Bold, But Vulnerable, Child of Contemporary Culture


Tuesday, October 29, 2013


12:00 pm – 1:30 pm


38 West 86th Street

Open to BGC faculty, staff, and students only.
212.501.3019, academicevents@bgc.bard.edu


Will Shank will be giving a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Tuesday, October 29, 2013, from 12:00 to 1:30 pm, as part of Cultures of Conservation: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Initiative. His talk is entitled “The Plight of the Exterior Contemporary Mural: A Bold, But Vulnerable, Child of Contemporary Culture.”

Will Shank is a consultant in the care of fine art collections, specializing in modern and contemporary paintings, in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. He received a B.S. in Italian and French from Georgetown University, an M.A. in Art History from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University, and a Certificate in Paintings Conservation from the Harvard University Art Museums. He was previously Chief Conservator (1991-1999) at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) and recipient of the Booth Family Rome Prize in Conservation in 2005. His curatorial projects include “A Hidden Picasso” (Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, September 2004–January 2005; SFMOMA, February – May 2007) and “Preserving a Modern Masterpiece: The Conservation of a Motherwell Elegy” (SFMOMA, 1993). For his work with the care of contemporary murals, he was granted the Conservation Advocacy Award by the American Institute for Conservation in 2010.

The modern mural movement that began in the 1960s is emblematic of both the brilliant strengths and the tragic weaknesses of many creative expressions in the fine arts in the past five or six decades. Following the example of the Mexican muralists of the first half of the 20th century, the American movement blossomed later in the 1960s and 1970s and has now become a worldwide phenomenon of social and artistic expression. Exterior paintings are valued for their democratic visibility, their frequent spontaneity, and their bold, large scale. However, they also face inherent limitations due to the vulnerability of the materials of which they are made, from their exposure to the elements, and from the very accessibility that makes them available to both their admirers and to their detractors. In his talk at the BGC, Shank will explore questions of "value.” The challenges for those who would preserve contemporary murals are complex, and the responses vary greatly. Shank will present a brief history of the movement and also explore the variety of approaches to the conservation of contemporary murals worldwide. In many of the same ways that the conservators of contemporary museum objects must remain flexible in their thinking, adapting traditional principles to the needs of the temporary or the evolving object, so must those who would give murals a longer life find new approaches to their preservation.

Brown Bag Lunch