Media Art by Deceased Artists or Defunct Workshops

   Critically Endangered small

Media art where the artists or creative technicians are either deceased or not able to provide guidance on authenticity and installation.

Digital Species: Media Art

Trend in 2022:

No change No Change

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

Trend in 2023:

No change No Change

Previously: Critically Endangered

Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within three years, detailed assessment within one year.

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve | Inevitability

It would require a major effort to prevent or reduce losses in this group, including the development of new preservation tools or techniques.


Works produced by media artists now deceased, such as: Jeremy Blake, Beatriz Da Costa, Heiko Daxl or Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski.

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Lack of documentation to enable maintenance; lack of clarity with respect to intellectual property; complex interdependencies on specific hardware, software or operating systems; lack of capacity in the gallery or workshop; lack of strategic investment; complex external dependencies; loss of institutional memory resulting from staff churn; poor working relationship between the gallery and artist/workshop; lack of conservation assessment.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Strong documentation; clarity of preservation path and ensuing responsibilities; proven preservation plan; capacity of workshop to support re-installation; capacity of gallery to conserve; capacity of gallery to re-install; retention of institutional memory including archives of correspondence between gallery and artist/workshop; strong and continuing working relationship between the gallery and artist/workshop; regular conservation assessment.

2023 Review

This entry was added in 2019 as a subset of the 2017 ‘Media Art,’ which was first introduced with particular reference to historical media art but split by the 2019 Jury to ensure greater specificity in its recommendation. This entry represents works held in galleries where the artist is deceased or the workshop has closed, and there is limited prospect to obtain new documentation. The 2020 Jury found a trend towards greater risk based on how galleries, which often rely on visitors for income, have been closed for extended periods and circumstances of economic dislocation. The 2021 Jury agreed on a continued trend towards greater risk based on the increasing risk of this loss happening with more time sensitivity for early media artworks.

The 2023 Council agreed with the Critically Endangered classification with overall risks remaining on the same basis as before (no change to the trend).

Additional Comments

This entry includes a point in the lifecycle of all media art, so good practice recommendations are likely to become more important over time. Preservation issues may not become visible until the piece is brought out of storage for loan or exhibition, underscoring the value of continuous or periodic conservation assessment. The range of data/formats/hardware/software etc. can be new and varied, providing organizations with an ongoing technical challenge that they are not initially equipped to deal with. Some loss seems inevitable.

Preservation of legacy media artworks is dependent on access to obsolete technology and also the knowledge of how to operate said technology. Documentation around the production process and artist intent can be limited and more critical without any access to artists or technicians. This creates risk around the preservation of a truly authentic artwork.

Case Studies or Examples:

  • Resources and outputs from the Preserving and Sharing Born Digital and Hybrid Objects From and Across The National Collection project. See V&A Research Projects (n.d.) ‘Preserving and Sharing Born Digital and Hybrid Objects’. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023].

  • This includes decision model work around acquisition of complex collections such as born digital and hybrid art. See Ensom, T, and McConnachie, S. (2022) ‘Preserving and sharing born-digital and hybrid objects from and across the National Collection’, Decision Model Report: March 2022. Available at:

See also:

  • NEW MEDIA MUSEUMS: Creating Framework for Preserving and Collecting Media Arts in V4, initiated by the Olomouc Museum of Art as a joint international platform for sharing experience with building and maintaining collections of new media artworks across different types of institutions. The aim of the project is to find workable methods for heritage institutions to build and maintain collections of media arts, which are necessary for safeguarding this area for the benefit of society. See Central European Art Database (2021) ‘NEW MEDIA MUSEUMS: Creating Framework for Preserving and Collecting Media Arts in V4’. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023].

  • The Collaborative Infrastructure for sustainable access to digital art LIMA project, to prevent the loss of digital artworks and to commonly develop the knowledge to preserve these works in a sustainable way. The project ‘Infrastructure sustainable accessibility digital art’ invests in research, training, knowledge sharing and conservation to prevent the loss of both digital artworks and the knowledge to preserve them. See LIMA (n.d.) ‘Collaborative infrastructure for sustainable access to digital art’. Available at: [accessed 24 October 2023].

  • Ellis, T. (2023) ‘Saving Stan: Preserving the Digital Artwork of Joseph Stanislaus Ostoja-Kotkowski’, iPRES 2023 Conference, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, USA, 19–22 September.

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