Preserve or perish: posthumous casts and the challenges of sculptors’ estates
Honouring an artist’s final wishes with respect to their studio contents is a daunting task, but in the case of sculptors’ estates the challenges are exponentially greater still. Which work should be deemed ‘the original’ – the hand-modelled maquette or a unique bronze cast made during the sculptor’s lifetime? If the work was issued as an edition, was the full edition ever realised? And, most problematically of all: what to do with fragile or perishable works that were never cast or fabricated in the artist’s lifetime? Should these be realised in a durable medium posthumously? If so, how can the sculptor’s intentions be known and respected? Families, executors and dealers representing sculptors’ estates repeatedly face these questions and many more. In this lecture I offer the perspective of an art historian who has catalogued a number of sculptors’ studios and worked with the representatives of their estates – drawing on, in particular, my experiences in the studio of Norma Redpath (1928-2013).
Dr Jane Eckett is a teaching associate in art history at the University of Melbourne whose research focuses on modernist sculpture and émigré legacies.
The Duldig Lecture is supported by the University of Melbourne.
Inaugurated in 1986 the Annual Duldig Lecture on Sculpture commemorates the life and work of the sculptor Karl Duldig and his wife, the artist and inventor Slawa Horowitz-Duldig.
Images:Norma Redpath studio, Carlton, Victoria, 2013. Photo: Jane Eckett.