With the introduction of unstable materials into the construction of contemporary art, conservators face a completely new set of challenges. How does one protect and stabilize an object that, by nature, is meant to decompose? The job is comprised of three actions: prevention, conservation, and restoration, “Contemporary art is often so vulnerable that you cannot really restore it but only prevent damage,” states Christian Scheidemann, who has been working as a freelance conservator since the early 80s.
Scheidemann, referred to as “The Art Doctor” by the New Yorker, is an expert in the practice of conserving contemporary art, and particularly in the conservation of contemporary art made with unstable materials, such as cake, donuts, chocolate, soap, and salt. His experience in contemporary art has given Scheidemann a unique perspective on the reach of art conservation. He shared his stories at a 2015 graduate seminar with the ArtCenter College of Design MFA program, covering projects from conserving Robert Gober’s Bag of Donuts to Robert Morris’ Untitled (L-Beams), exhibited with Gallery System’s client The Jewish Museum for their exhibition Primary Structures.