The Factum Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded in 2009 in Madrid, established to demonstrate the importance of documenting, monitoring, studying, recreating and disseminating the world’s cultural heritage through the rigorous development of high-resolution recording and re-materialisation techniques.
Iconoclastic destruction, mass tourism, war, natural disasters, imperfect restoration and commercial exploitation all pose serious threats to the preservation of many great works of art and culture. The conservation and preservation communities have realised the importance of high-resolution digital recording and this data is starting to be integrated into professional protocols and the discourse surrounding preservation. Central to this shift of attitude is a fundamental reappraisal of the cardinal role facsimiles can acquire when installed in their original location, or even when displaced and presented afresh in touring exhibitions. Facsimiles evidence the quality of the data retrievable through high-resolution recording. They are useful tools both to monitor the changes the original objects undergo throughout its existence and to raise awareness among growing numbers of visitors that the preservation of the past is a delicate and difficult act. It is necessary to investigate an object’s historical and physical composition in order to develop better ways to protect it.
Factum Foundation is at the forefront of rethinking the preservation of cultural heritage globally. They have initiated and been part of numerous exhibitions, studies, conservation training programmes, and unprecedented joint projects involving major artworks and monuments from around the world. A short list includes the recreation of Lamassu sculptures from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal at Nimrud, the Tomb of Tutankhamun, and Salviati’s ceiling at Palazzo Grimani. Ongoing projects include training in photogrammetry in Saudi Arabia, documentation of the Birdman cult on Easter Island, reconstructing the lost silver map of al-Idrisi, a facsimile of the Djehuty Garden in Luxor, and documenting, conserving and raising awareness about the Bakor monoliths of Nigeria.
The primary objective of the Factum Foundation is to ensure that future generations can inherit the past in a condition in which it can be studied and emotionally engaged with. We endeavor to create a living archive of a growing collection of all the wonders that we have inherited so that future generations - whose attitudes towards cultural heritage may, of course, be very different and who will certainly develop technologies far more advanced of ours - will have a resource that we bequeath of raw, clean and unmanipulated data.
Its recently published book, The Aura in the Age of Digital Materiality: Rethinking Preservation in the Shadow of an Uncertain Future (Silvana Editoriale, 2020) [read the free online version | buy the physical copy], is an extraordinary collection of over fifty essays by art historians and professionals in museums, architecture, the sciences, ethics, indigenous rights and other fields. Altogether, it is remarkable work of advocacy for connecting individuals, communities and countries through art.
Factum Arte, founded in 2001 by Adam Lowe, is Factum Foundation’s sister company. Based in Madrid, it consists of a team of artists, technicians and conservators dedicated to digital mediation - both of works for contemporary artists and in the production of facsimiles as part of a coherent approach to preservation and dissemination. Bespoke equipment designed and software has been written to obtain optimum results in both recording and outputting digital information. Factum Arte’s noncontact methodologies are having a growing impact on the world of conservation and are defining the role facsimiles play in the protection of our cultural heritage.
Adam Lowe works with many of the world’s leading artists, merging technology and craftsmanship. Factum’s sculptural works for Jenny Holzer cover the walls of the Louvre, Abu Dhabi and the 3D printed theatre set designed by Michael Hansmeyer for Romeo Castellucci’s production of The Magic Flute/ Die Zauberflöte, at the Théâtre Royal de La Monnaie de Munt, amazed the audience with its complexity. Over the past few years Factum Arte has worked with The Musée du Louvre, The British Museum, The Pergamon Museum, Museo del Prado, Biblioteca Nacional Madrid, the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt and many other museums, institutions and private individuals.
Factum not only produces great works of art but rethinks the nature of art itself, producing a new body of work that is both permanent and ephemeral.