The Material Lives and Deaths of Contemporary Artworks.

Crear, Katrina. 2012. The Material Lives and Deaths of Contemporary Artworks.. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This study is about the active lives of contemporary artworks. They are followed across their life trajectories, from their inception to material fabrication, exchange, exhibition and maintenance. Later in life, artworks are considered as they age, are materially re- fabricated, destroyed and memorialised. The hypothesis is that a contemporary work of art is not only an art object, but an object in an assemblage with people, documentation, other material things, names, space, images, places and more. I examine art objects as actors in collectives of activity with many persons and other material things. Anthropological theories about agency and distributed persons are utilised to identify the bonds among people, artworks and specifically the material parts of artworks. I also consider 20th century art historical questions about authorship, formalism and de- materialisation with reference to these anthropological theories. A principal goal for the thesis is in the examination of the roles and extent of the materiality of art. Further to observations of how decisions are reached and negotiated in practice over fabrication, conservation, re-makes, documentation and ownership, the study offers practical implications for contemporary art collections management.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


contemporary art, material anthropology, materiality, conservation, iconoclasm, immaterial art, authenticity,

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Anthropology > Centre for Visual Anthropology (CVA)



Item ID:


Date Deposited:

30 Jul 2012 13:04

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 10:30


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