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Monday, May 16 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Textiles) Vial Things: Preserving the Unexpected in the Occult Jewelry of Simon Costin

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Vials of evaporating semen and decaying, greasy turkey claws – these are not things usually associated with high fashion. Yet just like modern art, contemporary fashion is created from unexpected materials often designed to shock and titillate, thus creating unique challenges for fashion conservators. Recently, two necklaces by the British designer Simon Costin and held in the Metropolitan Museum Art’s Costume Institute collection underwent examination, treatment and storage rehousing in order to address issues related to the preservation of the biological specimens integrated into them. The first necklace, titled “Incubus (1987) is composed of copper wire, silver sperm motifs, and five glass vials filled with semen and mounted in partial silver casings. The conservation challenges in this necklace were primarily related to storage, since an interview with the artist revealed that the semen had been evaporating slowly over the past three decades. Inspired by preservation methods typically used for fluid-preserved biological specimens, innovative solutions were explored including the use of micro-chambers, anoxia, cyclododecane, microcrystalline wax, and cold storage. The second necklace, titled “Memento Mori” (1986) contains two taxidermied turkey claws and three rabbit skulls, along with Victorian lace, wooden beads, and hematite. The challenge for this necklace was two-fold: the turkey claws and rabbit skulls had been improperly prepared, and were subsequently exuding grease (claws) and showing mold (skulls), and the necklace was also found to have been infested. Informed by methods used in natural history collections, the treatment and storage solution for this necklace explored degreasing methods and long-term anoxia. The preservation campaigns for both objects underscore the requirement for a multiplicity of approaches for the conservation of contemporary fashion, the necessity to engage with other conservation disciplines in order to find effective solutions, and the benefit of conducting a designer interview in order to deeper understand artistic intention.

avatar for Sarah Scaturro

Sarah Scaturro

Head Conservator, The Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Sarah Scaturro is the Head Conservator of the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she is in charge of the conservation laboratory and the preservation of the fashion collection. She was previously the textile conservator and assistant curator of fashion at the Cooper-Hewitt... Read More →

Monday May 16, 2016 10:30am - 11:00am EDT
Room 511 A/D