Is Donald Judd’s art being wrongly handled?
His former fabricator is planning two conferences to “put the record straight”
By Marisa Mazria Katz. News, Issue 220, January 2011
Published online: 19 January 2011
NEW YORK. A Donald Judd symposium spearheaded by one of the artist’s long time fabricators, Peter Ballantine, is set to take place in New York and Berlin in 2011. The talk is aimed at averting a “potential crisis”, explained Ballantine, over what he sees as a growing list of misconceptions connected to the artist’s fabrication and conservation techniques. The two conferences come on the heels of an April 2010 gathering in Portland, Oregon, where Ballantine invited the likes of Yale University School of Art dean, Robert Storr, and Japanese architect, Arata Isozaki, for his “Donald Judd: Delegated Fabrication: History, Practices, Issues and Implications” talk held in conjunction with an exhibition of the artist’s work at the University of Oregon.
The idea was spurred by a curatorial decision to put a 1964 plywood floor piece on a pedestal at the Tate Modern’s 2004 Donald Judd retrospective. While Ballantine acknowledges the decision to raise the piece was likely a response to the wishes of its lender, still, it “showed how things can go wrong when the artist is not there to defend or explain himself”.
At the top of his list of grievances with the way Judd is handled today is not just the curatorial desire to put the artist’s work on pedestals, but also how damage to his pieces is being handled by both museum and privately commissioned restorers. “All of these things have to be discussed and argued over,” he said. “[These conferences] will be about asking if there are more authentic or less authentic ways to deal with Judd.”
Damage to Judd’s pieces are always a possibility, particularly because the artist was so explicit about not treating them like “museum pieces,” said Ballantine. Because most of his work from 1964 onwards was delegated rather than made by the artist, he explained, it is possible for damaged parts to be replaced without losing their integrity. “Damage will occur especially if you follow his rules about exhibitions,” he said. “The solution is to know that most damage can actually be fixed. There are unusually authentic ways outside the way of fixing most art that doesn’t diminish the value in Judd.”
The conferences also aim to elucidate Judd’s “extreme version of delegated fabrication”, said Ballantine, who worked for the artist for 25 years. “A lack of understanding of what really happened with fabrication stymies and misleads Judd art history, which is why these symposiums are so necessary.”
Once the series is complete, Ballantine will create a reference filled with the conference’s discussions and essays. He hopes the book will break a current stalemate on Judd scholarship.
Information on the conferences will be announced early this year.
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