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Dallas Museum of Art to open Paintings Conservation Studio next week
The Studio’s design will allow visitors to observe daily activity. Photo: courtesy of the Dallas Museum of Art.

DALLAS, TX.- The Dallas Museum of Art will open its new Paintings Conservation Studio on November 22, 2013, as part of the Museum’s initiative to establish a more comprehensive in-house conservation program. The Paintings Conservation Studio features state-of-the-art technology—including a digital X-ray system—and will serve as a center for study and treatment of works of art as well as research into cutting-edge conservation methodologies. Brightened with natural light from new skylights and enclosed by glass walls, the Studio’s design will allow visitors to observe daily activity, providing audiences with a singular behind-the-scenes experience. Activities in the Studio will also be visible from the adjacent outdoor Sculpture Terrace.

The opening is accompanied by an exhibition of paintings from the DMA’s collection—including works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Childe Hassam, Julian Onderdonk, and others—in the Conservation Gallery adjoining the Studio. Behind the Scenes highlights the artists’ original materials and techniques, as well as the conservation histories of the works on display, exploring the various treatments they have undergone. This adjoining gallery will regularly rotate works, providing a space to explore the conservation process in greater detail through visual representations. Paintings from the DMA’s collection are inside the Studio itself—including a Renaissance portrait by Alessandro Allori and a 19th-century seascape by Gustave Courbet—and are currently undergoing conservation study and treatment. The launch of the Studio coincides with multiple other conservation initiatives at the Museum, including the development of a regional network of conservation partnerships and the dedication of Daniel Buren’s Sanction of the Museum, 1973, a large-scale installation that was recently acquired and conserved by the DMA following nearly three decades in storage. The installation, which consists of six massive canvas sheets suspended in space, underwent a substantial conservation process upon entering the Museum’s collection last year, including treatments to all six panels. The newly conserved work was installed in August in the Museum’s Concourse. The conservation program at the DMA is led by Chief Conservator Mark Leonard and is supported by the newly appointed Associate Conservator of Objects, Fran Baas. The Conservation Gallery exhibition Behind the Scenes is co-curated by Leonard and Sue Canterbury, the DMA’s Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art.

“The launch of these new conservation initiatives supports the DMA’s commitment to responsible stewardship of our collection, and the advancement of conservation research and practices in the region and across the museum field,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the Museum’s Eugene McDermott Director. “We look forward to strengthening the DMA’s culture of conservation with the opening of this new facility and integrating conservation into the fabric of the Museum experience for the benefit and enjoyment of our community.”

Concurrent with the growth of its in-house conservation capabilities, the DMA is also establishing a network of regional conservation partnerships in conjunction with museums in North Texas that engage local universities to collaborate on conservation research and the study of individual works. The DMA and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art are currently working with the University of Texas at Dallas and the University of North Texas in Denton on conservation projects. The Amon Carter’s project with UTD focuses on photography dye analysis. Other examples range from the study of ultramarine pigment discoloration and the pigment and medium analysis of a work by Paul Gauguin from the DMA’s collection with UT Dallas, to the development of atomic sampling techniques for silverplated objects with UNT. The anticipated growth of this regional network will expand the impact of the DMA’s conservation activities and establish productive new relationships across the conservation field.

“By building external research partnerships to complement the renewed investments in our own conservation activities, the DMA is ensuring that the positive outcomes of our conservation activity will extend well beyond our own collection,” said Mark Leonard, who recently completed the first year of his tenure as the Museum’s inaugural chief conservator. “The continuing growth of the DMA’s conservation program will help to ensure that masterworks from across time periods and around the world are preserved for future generations.”

Construction and equipping of the new Paintings Conservation Studio was catalyzed by an anonymous lead gift. Additional support for the conservation program was provided by the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation, the Graham Williford Foundation for American Art, a private donation from Suzanne Deal Booth and David G. Booth of Austin, Texas, and an anonymous gift. The Conservation Studio was designed by Samuel Anderson Architects, and the renovation was completed by Balfour Beatty Construction.

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