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Wear and Care: Preserving Judd

I have to defend what I’ve done; it is urgent and necessary to make my work last in its first condition.

Donald Judd, “In defense of my work” (1977)

THE PEOPLE CLOSE TO DONALD JUDD’S WORK HAVE LONG BEEN AWARE that its apparent sturdiness belies a great vulnerability. In fact, the issue of care and repair constituted an ongoing source of vexation for Judd. In his “Complaints: Part II,” published in 1973, the artist was already fulminating (“in a spirit of cheerful revenge”) against the stupidity of the shippers and museum staff members who handled his art. Moreover, he wrote, “the public is awful and the guards don’t mind.” When the art was new, both its appearance and its industrial fabrication led people to assume that these were objects one might lean against, or set a drink on, or place outdoors. Judd illustrated “Complaints” with two photos of sculptures on which shippers had directly

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