Rather than leave the work in pieces, the conservators decided it was better to unify the sculpture by putting back the 18th-century restorations. "If the statue were a piece of music by Mozart," explained Walsh, "and a bit of the manuscript was missing, I don't think you would stop playing for a couple of measures. Musicians don't do that for a good reason--it falsifies the experience we were meant to have. The silence breaks the flow and it draws attention to what is missing rather than what is there."
There are no easy answers in art restoration, as Coddington cautioned, but the very existence of the symposium constitutes a good start at posing creative questions. And the issues raised at Reed are not just relevant to the assembled specialists. The new views of restoration portend a new kind of art exhibition--one that aims not to utter the last word on the works in question, but to let the argument about them continue from generation to generation.
"Pass the don't-look, don't-touch threshold," Bigelow urged the audience, "and enter a world where art is handled, taken apart and put back together--looked at under a microscope and examined from every perspective." The point is to restore the living experience of art--the science of restoration is merely art's handmaid. At the end of all this prodding and probing," said Bigelow, "we step back to find the artwork more magical than ever."
Heracles after its second restoration. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California, artist unknown, Statue of the Lansdowne Heracles, about 125 A.D., marble, height: 193.5 cm.
Victoria Ellison '79 is another of Charles Rhyne's accomplished students. She is a Seattle-based curator, critic, and artist, formerly with the Guggenheim, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York.