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David Bomford, Conservation Chair, and Zahira Véliz Bomford, Senior Paintings Conservator, to retire
Soni Bomford. Photo by Sarah Hobson.

HOUSTON, TX.- Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, today announced a significant transition in conservation and curatorial leadership at the MFAH: David Bomford, Chairman, Department of Conservation, and Audrey Jones Beck Curator, Department of European Art; and Zahira (Soni) Véliz Bomford, Senior Paintings Conservator, will retire in March 2019. The Bomfords, who were appointed simultaneously in 2012, will relocate from Houston to the United Kingdom.

Per Knutĺs, currently Chief Conservator at the Cleveland Museum of Art, has been appointed to succeed David Bomford in his role as Head of Conservation, beginning in July 2019. A related release on Knutĺs’s appointment is available here.

“During their six years at the MFAH, both David and Soni have made enormous contributions not only to this Museum, but to the fields of conservation and European art,” said Tinterow. “When they joined me in Houston in 2012, our goals were to build on the strengths of the conservation department, enhance its capabilities for scientific research, and develop and build what we intended to be one of the best conservation facilities of any public museum. They succeeded marvelously, winning a place in the hearts of their Houston colleagues, and leaving behind a legacy of extraordinary acquisitions, reinstalled galleries, restored paintings, and countless insights into our collections—most spectacularly, the identification and cleaning of a handsome early Velázquez. With these priorities now accomplished, I am pleased that Per Knutĺs has agreed to succeed David in overseeing the critical mission of the care, research and scholarship of our growing collections.”

David Bomford has been a distinguished figure in conservation for more than 40 years, having worked over the decades with many of the great masterworks of Western art at the National Gallery, London, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. During his six years at the MFAH, Bomford re-established the team’s focus on scientific research, with the appointment of Corina Rogge as the Andrew W. Mellon Research Scientist, and oversaw the development and completion of the new Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, one of the largest purposebuilt spaces for conservation in the world.

While at the MFAH, Bomford curated numerous exhibitions in his capacity as the curator of European art, including Spectacular Rubens (2015); Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collections (2015); Michelangelo and the Vatican: Masterworks from the Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte, Naples (2018); Hidden Layers: Painting and Process in Europe, 1500–1800 (2018); and Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits from Holbein to Warhol (2018). He is currently organizing Vincent van Gogh: His Life in Art, to open March 10, a major collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. Bomford also worked closely with Tinterow to secure significant acquisitions, ranging from secular and religious medieval masterpieces to paintings by Jacoba da Empoli, Francisco de Goya, Paul Gauguin, and François Gérard, and sculptures by Jean-Antoine Houdon and George Frederic Watts, all of which have been installed in reimagined galleries for European art.

“To have joined Gary and the amazing team at MFAH at such an exciting moment in the Museum’s history has been an extraordinary experience,” said Bomford. “I have loved my time in Houston and will take with me the memory of brilliant colleagues and treasured friendships.”

Zahira Véliz Bomford, a distinguished scholar of Spanish painting, gained international attention for leading the recent research and conservation effort that reattributed to Diego Velázquez a painting that had been in the MFAH collection for decades, Kitchen Maid (c. 1620).

During her six years at the MFAH, she was deeply involved with the technical research and treatment of the paintings of Franz Kline. The project started with the Museum’s collection and, under her direction, expanded to become a collaboration with MoMA, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, and Harvard Art Museums. Her numerous other conservation projects have included the stabilization and treatment of Anselm Kiefer’s The Sorrow of the Niebelungen (1973), and the stabilization and preservation of The Contribution of Negro Women to American Life and Education, a 1953 John Biggers mural sited in the Blue Triangle Branch of the YMCA in Houston’s Third Ward. The mural, one of Biggers’s most significant works, was severely damaged during Hurricane Harvey.

“The past six and a half years in Houston have been an unexpected but immensely fulfilling chapter in my professional life,” commented Véliz Bomford. “I have been privileged to work with exceptional colleagues throughout the MFAH, and most recently in a beautiful studio in the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Conservation Center, where the full potential of our conservation department can now be realized.”

David Bomford and Zahira Véliz Bomford will continue at the MFAH through March 2019.

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