No Preservatives: Conversations about Conservation

No Preservatives | Happy (Belated) Birthday, Tony Smith!

Limited Edition Tony Smith T-Shirt.

Limited Edition Tony Smith T-Shirt.

As part of the ongoing celebration of Tony Smith’s 100th birthday, the folks at the Tony Smith Estate and the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art – North America (INCCA-NA) wanted to do something special and a little different: document every single one of Smith’s outdoor artworks using Wikipedia. INCCA-NA launched this rather ambitious project last year by posting instructions in Wikipedia to help facilitate documentation. Then, they asked the world to help create the articles. When the initiative was first announced, there were eager participants who contributed good articles. The project also got some buzz, including a mention in the New York Times. But lately things have been moving slowly. The project needs help. Your help.

What’s in it for me, you ask? INCCA-NA is giving participants the limited-edition Tony Smith t-shirt pictured above (designed by Justin Visnesky). The front features a stylized version of Smith’s sculpture Marriage. The reverse bears a black and white INCCA-NA logo.

By contributing to this project you would be helping to document artworks by one of the greatest American sculptors of the 20th-century. You would also be helping to increase the “sum of all human knowledge” about art on the world’s fifth most viewed website.

For some, Wikipedia isn’t the easiest platform to work with. But here’s all you have to do:

  1. Follow the instructions within the Wikiproject for selecting and researching artwork.
  2. Using these instructions, write a Wikipedia article about the artwork you’ve chosen. To get a sense of what a good article looks like, check out the Wikipedia article for Smith’s sculpture Gracehoper.
  3. When you’re done, leave a note in the comment section below or on my Wikipedia Talk Page and tell me your t-shirt size (M, L, XL). I’ll have INCCA-NA send you a t-shirt!

Note: For the past few years, I have served on INCCA-NA’s program committee, and as part of that group, I helped create this project. If you contributed a Smith Wikipedia article early on, you too can receive a t-shirt! Drop a note on my Talk Page (link above) and I’ll have one sent to you. Please hurry though–supplies are limited. It’s first come, first served. Also, Tony Smith won’t be 100 forever.

Tony Smith with his sculpture “The Snake Is Out” in Bryant Park in 1967. Photo from the New York Times.

Tony Smith with his sculpture “The Snake Is Out” in Bryant Park in 1967. Photo from the New York Times.

Why is it important to have a Wikipedia article about every single Tony Smith sculpture in the world? Because art is important. Smith is important. And many of his works are not documented in a way that’s easily accessible online. If we are able to achieve this now, we can prove the effectiveness of this kind of project and process. Then, people can start thinking about ways to collaborate on the documentation of works by other, and perhaps lesser-known, artists. Participants of this project are helping everyone care for (and about) Smith’s sculptures a little more, and caring for art is really the first step in preservation.

Need another reason to participate? If you’re an emerging arts professional or enthusiasts, you could put your finished article on your resume. Knowing how to create Wikipedia articles about art is a very good 21st century skill to have. Go on, give it a try. Look at how much fun the people in this photograph are having with the project!

Richard McCoy talking to Rosanna Flouty's NYU students.

Richard McCoy skyping with New York University graduate students in the course “Museums and Interactive Technologies,” taught by Rosanna Flouty, Art21’s Director of Education. Flouty’s students worked collaboratively to create an article for the Tony Smith piece “Throwback” located in NYC.