The Colosseum, the Taj Mahal, the Declaration of Independence – their nearly universal appeal unquestionably ensures their ongoing preservation. But what is the fate of lesser-known, endangered or ephemeral cultural treasures? What criteria can we use to determine if a site or an object is “worthy” of preservation, and how should the preservation best be accomplished? What is the impact on us when we imagine our future environment with (or without!) the preserved component?
March 17: Saving the Byzantine Frescoes
Architect Francois de Menil will share the riveting story of the theft and destruction of thirteenth-century frescoes from a small church in Cyprus and their recovery and restoration by the Menil Foundation. He will then explain his philosophy and design for the Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, which now houses the frescoes in a symbolic structure based on respect for their spiritual significance in a new context. His current projects include three new single-family houses in Houston and a roof terrace for the residents of the Museum Tower located on the roof of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
February 22: Disappearing Sculpture: Ephemerality in Contemporary Art
Art historian Deborah A. Goldberg will discuss the philosophies of contemporary artists whose works are intentionally designed to decay, deteriorate, or be dismantled. She will elaborate on the installation and special challenge of “preserving” works such as the biodegradable projects of Janine Antoni and Wolfgang Laib, the food compositions of Dieter Roth, the environmental art of Christo and Jeanne Claude, and the earthworks of Robert Smithson. Dr. Goldberg currently lectures at Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York and at Rutgers University.
March 3: The Fragility of Italy’s Sacred Mountains
Between the late fifteenth and early eighteenth centuries, sixteen “sacri monti,” or sacred mountains, were founded by Franciscan friars at remote, forested hilltop sites in Italy. Each of these sites contained groupings of small chapels, which were occupied by life size terracotta figures in religious scenes produced by leading artists of the period. The sacri monti have been ignored by art and architectural historians and face continuous endangerment from the harsh Alpine climate, vandalism, and theft. Medina Lasansky, associate professor of architecture at Cornell University, who has done extensive research on the sites, will lead our virtual pilgrimage through the sacri monti. Professor Lasansky’s book, The Renaissance Perfected, was published earlier this year.