Challenges Surrounding the Conservation and Replication of Eva Hesse’s Sculpture

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Nurmi, Kaela L
Eva Hesse; Art Conservation; Preservation; Contemporary Art; Conservation; Replication; Art and Materials Conservation
thesis / dissertation description
The sculpture of German-born American artist, Eva Hesse (1936-1970), presents many conservation challenges. Hesse’s experimentations with latex and fiberglass created stunningly innovative works of art in the late 1960s bringing these unorthodox materials into the world of fine art; but now these materials are creating major conservation problems. Her artwork is an extreme example of the conservation challenges of contemporary art. This thesis examines the challenges surrounding the conservation and replication of Eva Hesse’s large-scale latex and fiberglass sculptures. The latex and fiberglass materials that captivated Hesse are compromising the structural integrity of her large-scale sculptures today. Hesse’s art forces conservators to establish conservation practices specific to modern and contemporary art. Although replication pushes conservators to re-examine their usual practices and violates the standard notion of minimal intervention, the replication of Hesse’s sculptural works is necessary to represent her artistic vision.