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Name: Simon Fleury

PhD: art/design

Thesis Title: Conservator as Artist: Re-thinking intra-objectivity for contemporary art practice via the Raphael Tapestry Cartoons


Thesis Description:


The V&A’s first curator, Richard Redgrave produced groundbreaking work via his ‘condition reports’. These reports exposed strange, intimate secrets behind the creation of some of the greatest artworks within the museum, but did so by interpreting these exposures via a utilitarian approach to conservation, information and index. Today the study of materials/materiality is again central, but conservation and its broader aesthetic agencies remain overlooked by theoretical practical concerns within the leading disciplines of fine art, photographic history, and visual culture. 

My research-led practice, which has found a home at the International Centre for Contemporary Art Research at BCU seeks to redresses this imbalance by critically rethinking the role of the condition report, from Redgrave’s ground-breaking work to the latest digital iteration, as a heterogeneous site of material encounter, and positioning the conservator as a novel “disposition” of thinking/making. A balancing act of ethics, cultural care, virtuosity and intervention, that offers a fascinating window into the dynamic fields of materiality, objects and institutional analysis.

This research is grounded in my experience as a senior conservator at the V&A, where I’m largely responsible for the conservation and care of the Museum’s photography collections. This wide ranging role is underpinned by a background in photography, which has included extensive commercial experience, post-graduate study at the Royal College of Art, and an on-going practice-led artistic practice. I’m also actively involved in promoting conservation centred arts projects at the V&A. This has included chairing a recent roundtable discussion exploring the emerging field of ’experimental preservation’ (featured in the recent publication, Experimental Preservation, Jorge Otero-Pailos, Lars Müller Press, 2016); a project with the artist Marie Lund, and several paper conservators which investigated the practice and ethics of conservation, through the collaborative making of a new artwork, for the exhibition Best Laid Plans, at the Drawing Room, London.


Supervisors and Institution(s): 


DoS: Professor Johnny Golding, BCU

SS: Assoc. Prof Henry Rogers, BCU

SS: Dr Simon Mills, DMT



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