“The Conservator’s Cupboard” by Mark Dion

Bard Graduate Center supports artists whose practices resonate with our commitment to facilitating a rigorous discussion of the cultural history of the material world. Mark Dion’s “The Conservators Cupboard” explores the mental and material landscape of the conservator. Referencing the traditions of the artist’s studiolo and the alchemist’s workshop, Dion has constructed for Bard Graduate Center’s lobby in 38 West 86th Street a sculptural citation of a working cupboard filled with raw materials, apparatus, and books.

Dion invites viewers into the conversation between the historical questions that objects raise, and the desire to know. The conservator, heir to the artist and the alchemist, produces knowledge by bringing together a trained eye and hand with a scientific education. Dion evokes three aspects of the practice of conservation— materiality, the exploration of processes and methodologies over time, and the research-based practice of comprehending and to some degree restoring the social context for a work of art. Since Dion’s work often is located on the threshold between science and art, the field of conservation is an appropriate site for one of his investigations. This installation is part of “Cultures of Conservation” at Bard Graduate Center, an initiative supported by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Additional support was also provided by Tanya Bonakdar Gallery.

About Mark Dion

Since the early 1990s, Mark Dion has examined the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, the artist creates works that address distinctions between objective scientific methods and subjective influences. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society. Born in Massachusetts in 1961, Dion received a BFA and an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford School of Art, Connecticut in 1986 and 2003, respectively. He also studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York from 1982-84, and participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program from 1984- 85. He has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Lucida Art Award (2008). Presently, he is a mentor at Columbia University in New York and co-director of Mildred’s Land, an innovative visual art education and residency program in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania. Major solo exhibitions include: Mark Dion: The Academy of Things at The Academy of Fine Arts Design in Dresden, Germany (2014), The Macabre Treasury at Museum Het Domein in Sittard, The Netherlands (2013), Oceanomania: Souvenirs of Mysterious Seas at Musée Océanographique de Monaco and Nouveau Musée National de Monaco / Villa Paloma in Monaco (2011), The Marvelous Museum: A Mark Dion Project at Oakland Museum of California (2010- 11), Systema Metropolis at Natural History Museum, London (2007), The South Florida Wildlife Rescue Unit at Miami Art Museum (2006), Rescue Archaeology, a project for the Museum of Modern Art (2004), and his renowned Tate Thames Dig at the Tate Gallery in London (1999). In 2012, his work was included in dOCUMENTA 13, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev in Kassel, Germany, and has also been exhibited at MoMA PS1 in New York, Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain, Minneapolis Institute of Art in Minnesota, Arp Museum Bahnhof Rolandseck in Remagen, Germany, and Kunsthaus Graz in Austria. His work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate Gallery, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg; Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA; and the Israel Museum of Art, Jerusalem; among others.