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New Grant Goes to Painting Conservation at DMA

by Jerome Weeks 12 Jun 2012 12:10 PM

Who cares about conservation? It’s not as sexy as a new purchase. But it’s obvious new DMA director Maxwell Anderson does. He hired the DMA’s first chief curator — and now they’ve gone and gotten some real cash.


Nope, not really what the painting conservator is going to be doing. Photo: Shutterstock

Conservation is one of the humdrum, housekeeping duties of a museum that doesn’t get much attention. It’s rarely as sexy as a new purchase or a new hire — until some lost masterwork is uncovered in a cleaning or a seriously damaged piece is almost magically restored. Mostly, though, it’s about upkeep, about maintaining this collection. Which doesn’t really shout Exciting and New!

But at least this announcement is tied to a new hire. In April, Dallas Museum of Art director Maxwell Anderson hired the museum’s first chief curator, Mark Leonard — hired him away from the the rich and swanky Getty Museum, which is something. And in July when Leonard starts here, his new staff (which is precisely one on-staff conservator) and his new painting conservation studio (which is not yet built) will have a nice little grant to work with: $500,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

All of which means the DMA is now taking this nuts-and-bolts stuff seriously.

The full release follows:

Dallas Museum of Art Receives $500,000 Grant

From Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Support Conservation

Dallas, TX, June 12, 2012 — The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the Dallas Museum of Art a $500,000 grant in support of the newly created position of Chief Conservator, ensuring the launch of a strong conservation program at the Museum. The position will be held by Mark Leonard, who, upon his July arrival will immediately begin work on building the Museum’s first paintings conservation studio. The studio, when completed, will serve as a center for integrating the culture of conservation across the Museum’s collection departments. Once this program has been established, the groundwork will be in place to explore the ways in which further collaboration among local museums might enhance the cultural vibrancy of the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

“We are deeply grateful to the Mellon Foundation for its support of the Dallas Museum of Art’s first Chief Conservator and for the 21st-century expansion of our conservation program,” said Maxwell L. Anderson, the Museum’s Eugene McDermott Director. “With this major grant and the generous assistance of other supporters, we can guarantee the care and stewardship of our collection, which positions us to make significant contributions to other museums in the region and in the field at large.”

“The foundation of any successful museum conservation program includes rich, collaborative working relationships between curators and conservators,” commented Leonard. “I look forward to working with my new colleagues as we weave conservation into the daily fabric of the Dallas Museum of Art.”

With more than thirty years of experience as a restorer and artist, Mark Leonard served most recently as the Head of the Paintings Conservation Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum from 1998 until 2010, when he stepped down to pursue his work as an artist. He joined the Getty’s Paintings Conservation Department in 1983.

Earlier, Leonard worked in the Paintings Conservation Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for five years. He has restored paintings from the collections of the Frick Collection, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Yale Center for British Art, among many others, and has published extensively on topics relating to conservation study, treatment, technology, and technique. Leonard initially studied as an artist before pursuing degrees in art history and paintings conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.

The Conservation Department at the DMA currently has one staff conservator and a small conservation studio, devoted to the conservation of art objects. With the transformative growth of its collection over the last several decades, the Museum is taking the step to increase its in-house conservation capabilities, both to safeguard the quality of the works in its collection and to benefit from the research in materials and innovative techniques that conservation technology allows. Leonard will work with DMA Director Anderson and the Museum’s Senior Staff to establish the more comprehensive Conservation Department and further develop the Museum’s Collections and Exhibitions program, informed by his scholarship in the care and preservation of paintings from across the Museum’s encyclopedic collection.

About the Dallas Museum of Art

Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 25,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, the Museum welcomes more than half a million visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations.

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.