The reproduction of artworks has been a topic of debate since Walter Benjamin (1936) described that reproduction changes art’s historic value (‘aura’) into one of exhibition value. However, 3D printing offers possibilities Benjamin could have never imagined possible: to three dimensionally print artworks, preserving their visual and material qualities in every minor detail. Even though 3D printing has just started to develop, with the rapid speed at which technology is developing it will only be a matter of time before the products become more accurate, cheaper to manufacture and accessible to everyone at any time.
This research gives insight in how we can use – or not use – 3D printing as a conservation strategy for paintings. It will provide a way of understanding how we can deal with the technical, art historical and ethical discussions this technique provokes. Drawing from various disciplines such as conservation studies, museum studies, art history, reproduction technology and material science, this research aims to provide theoretical and practical ways in which 3D printing can be used in overcoming binaries in conservation practices. This research also investigates 3D printing as a durable and sustainable conservation strategy that works in the advantage of the material, aesthetic and authentic qualities of originals.
By working closely with Dutch museums, this research will provide ways in which museums can use this technology to keep original artworks meaningful to our changing society that will deal with more replicas, digital reproductions and converted representations than ever before.