Davenport’s “Impossible Liberties” brings out many of the important questions about artist’s intentions for their work in their lifetime and beyond, especially in regards to contemporary artwork in which the intent or concept is more important than the actual material object. As in the instance of Duane Hanson’s Sunbather, permission was given to replace the suit, swim cap and objects with completely different pieces. To some this may make the object entirely different, but to the artist as long as the work transmits the same message and original idea it is the same work. Such alterations, often times not even carried out by the artist, can be much more drastic, such as cutting the entire piece in half in order to fit in the space available. In the case of Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility of Death to Someone Living,” Vogel explains how the actual shark was replaced with a new one and used a different method to preserve its appearance. Adrian Piper notes that we would be bothered if a Michelangelo foot was removed and put on a different part of the sculpture, and yet replacing entire objects, moving around pieces of the work and other alterations do not disturb the public as much. Is this because contemporary art is more concerned with original intent than the art itself? Is it because the work is done from the hands of the artist himself? Or is it because no great amount of time has elapsed since the work was created?
The issues of artist’s intent are important to establish before an artist’s passing. Joyce Hill Stoner’s article emphasizes the attention to detail that is required in order to fully present an artist’s intent for his or her works. Even in the case of Whistler, who left extensive records, as well as lifetime patterns, for how his art should be displayed, framed, restored and travelled, there are still many controversial questions about his artwork. Where do the intents and requests of an artist end and the judgment of the conservator and curator take over?
As Fred Sandback responded in Davenport’s piece, “When do you decide that the artwork is no longer carrying the ideas? I think rather that the work of art is an idea. Over time it may become a different idea.” While this can certainly refer to a painting simply “mellowing” over time as the varnish acts on the colors, it can also refer to Hirst replacing the entire shark from his work. Is there a difference between these changes?