The Humility of Plaster


This one-day conference brings together UK and EU researchers, art-historians, curators, conservationists, and artists to explore the contemporary relevance of moulding and casting techniques for current practices of collecting, archiving, and conservation. The conference will investigate plaster casts and moulds, and the collections that house them, both as a historical phenomenon with contemporary consequences, but also from the perspective of makers, artisans and artists, with an emphasis on the materiality of plaster and its use in active moulding workshops.

The conference aims to draw attention to current curatorial strategies employed in caring for and displaying plaster cast collections. We will investigate why, given their prolific history, there are no active UK-based mould collections/fabrication workshops, similar to those found in Berlin, Paris or Brussels.


Karin Ruggaber, artist, Slade School of Fine Art / UCL
Dr Amy Tobin, University of Cambridge
Dr Holly Trusted, senior curator, Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Dr Rebecca Wade, assistant curator, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds
Thomas Lefeuvre, L’Atelier de Moulage, Réunion des Musées Nationaux et du Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées, Paris, France
Dr Alex Massouras, artist and critic, The Ruskin School of Art, Oxford
Florian Roithmayr, artist, University of Reading

This conference coincides with the two-year research and exhibition project The Humility of Plaster, exploring the history and current installation of the cast collections at the Museum of Classical Archaeology, University of Cambridge, with reference to other important collections across Europe. The artist Florian Roithmayr initiated the project, which is facilitated by the Museum of Classical Archaeology, Kettle’s Yard and Wysing Arts Centre, and funded by the Art Council England, the Henry Moore Foundation, and the Elephant Trust. The exhibition and a new related display in Kettle’s Yard’s Edlis Neeson Research Space consider the materiality of plaster. As artist Florian Roithmayr explains:

‘Moulding and casting are ancient techniques that continue to give form and shape to objects and sculpture. However, the way different meanings and values are attributed to these works cast in plaster changes and shifts: is it the whiteness of plaster that allows these sculptures to become humble, a material humility that accepts and submits to different interpretations, and mirrors values or uses brought to them? Or is it the way they are made, the technical procedure, the sequential chain of contact and touch, the same material giving and taking form, rubbing against itself?

This conference marks the conclusion of this two-year research and exhibition project and launch of its accompanying publication.

The Humility of Plaster is co-commissioned by Museum of Classical Archaeology, Kettle’s Yard and Wysing Arts Centre. It is supported using public funding by Arts Council England, Henry Moore Foundation, The Elephant Trust, The University of Cambridge Museums and the Paul Mellon Centre.

The conference is generously funded by the Paul Mellon Centre for the Studies of British Art and supported by University of Cambridge Museums.

4 September 2018
Kettle’s Yard,
Castle Street,

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