NDR/Arte

The Life of an Artwork

A film about the fascinating life of an artwork from cradle to grave, seen from the perspective of Christian Scheidemann, better known as the “Art Doctor”.

All those people worried about the shelf life of their hand-signed snowball, their sculpture made from caviar or the extremely delicate surface of their painting created from dried vegetables, automatically end up in the New York studio “Contemporary Conservation” of “Art Doctor“ Christian Scheidemann. It doesn’t matter if you are European, American or Asian, if you are a collector, artist, curator or gallery owner. Scheidemann is the man of the hour for the conservation of contemporary art. He consults for and works with artists who employ unusual materials. He repairs damaged art, stops aging processes, slows them down or suggests to not interfere at all. As the world’s leading expert he is at the forefront of discussions concerning the authenticity and integrity of contemporary art. His credo: “The artwork is always right.“

Works of art of the most renowned artists are lining up in Schneidemann’s studio like patients in the doctor’s waiting room. Vulnerable and defenseless they are awaiting their treatment. Today it’s works from Warhol and Beuys, tomorrow from McCarthy and Robert Gober. In the film this serves as an intro into the fascinating world of the materials used in contemporary art, such as rare butterflies, decomposing chocolate or spectacular concrete structures.

Starting out with the actual restoration work, and together with Christian Schneidemann, the film addresses the question where art begins and where it ceases to be just that. In conjunction with him we experience how he advises artists during the creation of their works. However, we also witness the moment when art is declared to be beyond salvation. Accompanying Christian Schneidemann we partake in the most sensitive moments in the “life“ of a piece of art.

Via the tangible work on the pieces, the film produces a particular closeness with the sensitive works and at the same time poses the crucial questions about our understanding of art: Why is it that an ailing Greek sculpture is being put on display at the Forum Romanum whilst a Gerhard Richter painting with a tear is being completely written off by the insurance? The work is being sent to the kingdom come for art. But how can art turn into non-art? Has art given up on its claim to eternity in the 21st century? And what does this mean for the future of art and artists?

Documentary, D 2018, 52 min.

Director & Script: Marion Kollbach
DOP: Chris Valentien
Editor: Anne Kliem
Commissioning Editor: Monika Schäfer
Production Management: Maximilian Reich
Producer: Bernhard v. Hülsen, Maria Willer