Media art in the Last 20 Years

In the second phase, the media artwork presented in the TOOLS draws attention to the changes of the era from the nineties to the present: under the influence of mass media, mass distribution and appearance of new media – photo, video, digital imaging techniques – in fine arts.

curator: Béla Tamás Kónya

The Preservation of Media Art – What Is Easier to Restore: a Work by Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenstein or an Application?

Today’s great digital turn has also affected museum collections. The Ludwig Museum purchased the first work that included technical tools in 1996 (Ilona Német: Polyfunctional Woman), and from 1997 on, began to buy motion pictures, too. Today 30 percent of the collection belongs to media art.

The exhibition TOOLS is a selection from the conceptual, video and computer-based works of the past 20 years. Through the works of Tamás Waliczky, Zbigniew Libera, Eva Koťátková, Sean Snyder and others, we attempt to provide a comprehensive picture of the major trends in media art and to present new conservation and museological issues resulting from rapidly changing technologies.

We launched our programme (MAPS) for the preservation of media art in 2015, following the example of London’s Tate or the New York MoMA. Today, we know that restoring and displaying a painting is much easier than preserving and presenting a digital work from the museum’s collection, since a media-based work contains non-tangible, constantly changing elements.

An artwork with digital components exists only in the state of display. As a result, replacing a device – a monitor, a projector, or a loudspeaker – can make the work change or even become inoperable or inaccessible. Our task is to preserve the authentic display of the works in the museum’s collection without compromising their meaning and content.

The media works in the Ludwig Museum’s collection have all been exhibited at least once in the past. The presentation of artworks transferred to ever-changing technical devices is in fact a re-presentation of a physically non-existent work, which requires an unconventional approach that means a completely new, experimental, i.e. experiential restoration, which brings media artworks in the state of display only for the course of the exhibitions.

Preserving media art has become a key area of contemporary museology. The aim of museum research is to extend current artistic protection knowledge to film, video and software-based art with the involvement of restorers, IT and computer experts. Preserving media art will be one of the main tasks of future restorers.