In January 2008, "The Object in Transition: A Cross-Disciplinary Conference on the Preservation and Study of Modern and Contemporary Art" was held at the Getty Center. A close collaboration between the GCI and the Getty Research Institute (GRI), the conference brought together conservators, curators, art historians, artists, and conservation scientists to discuss interdisciplinary case studies on the conservation of some of the varied—and frequently untraditional—materials used by artists over the last seventy years.
A public panel discussion, "The Object in Transition: Contemporary Voices," organized as part of the GCI's Conservation Matters lecture series, opened the conference. Elisabeth Sussman from the Whitney Museum of American Art served as moderator for a discussion among artists Rachel Harrison, Paul McCarthy, and Doris Salcedo and conservator Christian Scheidemann, in which they described the often complex production processes of their art, the fleeting nature of some of the materials they use, and the implications for the long-term survival of their work.
The two-day conference for professionals in the field included case studies debating the conservation issues presented by specific works of art, dialogues among conservators and art historians on the interdisciplinary study of particular artists, and general panel discussions.
Among the works chosen for study by panelists were Piet Mondrian's Victory Boogie Woogie, Roy Lichtenstein's Three Brushstrokes, Sol Lewitt's 49 Three-Part Variations on Three Different Kinds of Cubes, James Turrell's Trace Elements: Light into Space, David Novros's 6:30 and VI:XXXII, and Eva Hesse's Expanded Expansion.
Interdisciplinary studies were presented on artists Bruce Nauman and Barnett Newman, and panels on issues such as "The Painted Surface," "Artist's Voice: History's Claim," and the "Life and Death of Objects" allowed for significant discourse on topics brought up during the conference.
Many of the objects discussed during the conference were on display in the J. Paul Getty Museum for conference attendees to examine, including two sections of Eva Hesse's Expanded Expansion from the Guggenheim Museum in New York; three related paintings by David Novros, two from the Menil Collection in Houston and one from the Museum of Modern Art in New York; a rejected Barnett Newman study from the Harvard University Art Museums, and a maquette for Roy Lichtenstein's Three Brushstrokes. In addition, a material mock-up of a section of Expanded Expansion was on display for comparison.
In order to provide colleagues unable to attend with a lasting record of the meeting, all of the sessions of this two-day conference were recorded in video. These videos are available for viewing online on the Getty Web site.