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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum receives $3 million challenge grant for art conservation
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Photo: David M. Heald The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has received a $3 million endowment grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the continuing work of the museum’s Conservation Department. The grant, to be matched two-to-one, is designated specifically to endow the position of Deputy Director and Chief Conservator, held since 2007 by Carol Stringari, and a new position, Director of Engagement, Conservation and Collections. The announcement was made today by Richard Armstrong, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.

“Carol Stringari and her conservation team are well known and highly regarded for their cutting-edge research, interdisciplinary perspective, and use of innovative techniques in advancing the field of conservation,” said Armstrong. “We commend The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for its sustained commitment to the preservation of our cultural heritage, and we are grateful for its support of the Guggenheim’s work in this area. The endowment of these two positions will ensure our continued leadership in this vital area and enable the Guggenheim to create new programs to introduce its varied and fascinating conservation activities to the public.”

The Conservation Department—comprised of nine conservators who specialize in paintings, paper, time-based media, and objects of the late nineteenth century to the present—plays an integral role in the research, preservation, and presentation of the Guggenheim’s collection. The newly created position of Director of Engagement, Conservation and Collections is the first of its kind in the field. The director will further the work of the Guggenheim by supporting initiatives to make the museum’s collection and the role of art conservation more transparent and accessible to the public.

The Guggenheim conservation team works closely with colleagues at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice and at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao as well as with other arts professionals worldwide. They enable research and scholarship and train the next generation of conservators. Recent collaborations include an ongoing science program studying objects and sharing resources with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an in-depth research project with the Art Institute of Chicago and Northwestern University through the NU-ACCESS program. As part of NU-ACCESS, participating institutions are conducting a thorough, collaborative study of Hungarian artist Lszl Moholy-Nagy’s innovative materials and techniques. This research, which is generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, informed the curatorial planning of Moholy-Nagy: Future Present, on view at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, from May 27 through September 7, 2016, and will be published in exhibition’s accompanying catalogue.

A longtime pioneer in the field of contemporary art conservation, the Guggenheim established the Variable Media Initiative in 1999 to advance the preservation of media and performance-based works in its permanent collection. This initiative prompted a focus on the preservation of unconventional art forms that include conceptual, installation, performance, and time-based elements. In 2010 and 2013, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation funded the Panza Collection Initiative, a groundbreaking conservation and curatorial program designed to address the long-term preservation and future exhibition of the Guggenheim’s Panza Collection, which contains Minimalist, Post-Minimalist, and Conceptual artworks.

The Guggenheim’s commitment to illuminating the process of art conservation is reflected particularly in two past exhibitions organized by Carol Stringari. In 2008, the exhibition Imageless: The Scientific Study and Experimental Treatment of an Ad Reinhardt Black Painting introduced the conservator as forensic scientist, working with a group of experts to uncover the mystery hidden beneath the monochromatic painting’s surface. The 2004 exhibition Seeing Double: Emulation in Theory and Practice displayed various strategies for preserving digital art, working closely with artists to determine parameters for change.

The recently established Conserving Computer-Based Art project, the first program focusing on this subject, aims to develop, implement, and disseminate best practices for the acquisition, preservation, maintenance, and display of computer-based art. The Guggenheim is one of the few institutions in the United States with a dedicated staff and facility for the conservation of art created through time-based media, such as video, film, slide, and audio, or computer-based technologies. The conservation team also serves to mentor and train interns and fellows and functions as a think tank and laboratory for New York University computer science students.

In an effort to stimulate and contribute to the ongoing dialogue with contemporary artists, writers, architects, curators, and scientists, the Guggenheim conservation staff continues to publish and educate, participate in and host symposia, and lecture at conferences and forums around the world.

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