Eva Hesse at Getty Conservation Conference

Eva Hesse, Expanded Expansion, 1969

In January 2008, Chief Conservator Carol Stringari participated in The Object in Transition: A Cross-Disciplinary Conference on the Preservation and Study of Modern and Contemporary Art, a conference that was held at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The collaborations between conservators and curators in each session highlighted issues surrounding artists working in modern materials and one entire panel was devoted to Eva Hesse’s Expanded Expansion (1969), a work made of latex rubber and fiberglass poles, which was generously donated to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1975 by Helen Charash, sister of the artist. The panel highlighted the specific issues surrounding Expanded Expansion in an attempt to establish whether it can or should be exhibited, given that the latex has darkened and become brittle. Although it is generally felt that it should be made available to the public, there are differing opinions as to how the artist would have reacted to its present condition. The conference provided the impetus for the Guggenheim’s conservation department to treat a portion of the work and create a materials mock-up with Hesse’s assistant, Doug Johns. This process was recorded by Tony Ganz and will serve as a document to help further the dialogue about this powerful, yet extremely fragile piece. The passionate panel discussion centered on the prospect of finding a solution for restoration, issues of funding, and how the work should be presented. Two sections of this monumental work were installed at the Getty alongside the mock-up, enabling the conference participants to experience the material firsthand.

Eva Hesse, Expanded Expansion, 1969. Reinforced fiberglass poles and rubberized cheesecloth. Overall: 10 3/16 x 25 feet; three units of three, five, and eight poles, respectively: 10 3/16 x 5 feet; 10 3/16 x 10 feet; 10 3/16 x 15 feet. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Gift, Family of Eva Hesse 75.2138. Photo: David Heald, 1986

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