The Panza Collection Initiative
Over three hundred fifty works of Minimalist, Post-Minimalist, and Conceptual art
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With the support of a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has launched an ambitious initiative to address the long-term preservation and future exhibition of artworks of the 1960s and 1970s. Led by curator and scholar Jeffrey Weiss and conservator Francesca Esmay, the Panza Collection Initiative (PCI) is focused on the extensive collection of Minimalist, Post-Minimalist, and Conceptual art that the museum acquired from Italian collector Giuseppe Panza di Biumo in 1991 and 1992.
The goal of the PCI is to ensure that these exceptional holdings are researched, preserved, and presented to the public with proper consideration for historical context, material integrity, and artistic intention. By evaluating specific cases in the collection, the initiative also aims to develop a broader framework through which to address the long-term sustainability of other variable, ephemeral, or fabrication-based artworks of this era. In its first three-year phase (2010–13), the PCI is concentrating on the work of five major artists, three living and two deceased, who are represented in the collection in depth: Dan Flavin (b. 1933, Jamaica, New York; d. 1996, Riverhead, New York), Bruce Nauman (b. 1941, Fort Wayne, Indiana), Robert Morris (b. 1931, Kansas City, Missouri), Donald Judd (b. 1928, Excelsior Springs, Missouri; d. 1994, New York), and Lawrence Weiner (b. 1942, Bronx, New York).
With the emergence of new art practices during the 1960s, the nature of art making—and the status of the artwork itself—experienced a dramatic historical shift. In place of existing conventions regarding medium and craft, artists came to substitute industrial materials for traditional ones and delegated fabrication to others. In some cases, the “object” was abandoned altogether in favor of diagrams and texts, instructions for events or projects, and proposed or imagined works. The ramifications were profound: an artwork was no longer necessarily crafted by the artist or given a fixed, permanent form. It could be executed by other hands and reconstituted or re-adapted to different spaces and circumstances, or it could exist solely in the form of a plan, to be produced at a later date.
This shift represents an unusual practical challenge. In spite of the historical significance of Minimalist, Post-Minimalist, and Conceptual art, there is, for the most part, no true consensus on how to address the long-term preservation and display of such work. Traditional curatorial and conservation practices are often inadequate in dealing with art that is ephemeral, variable, or fabrication-based in nature. Further, these unorthodox approaches to art making raise difficult conceptual, ethical, and legal questions regarding authenticity, ownership, and interpretive rights. The lack of a clear methodology for managing these issues has left the fate of many works of the era uncertain; moreover, with the aging of the generation, access to primary information is increasingly limited.
The PCI is addressing this situation by implementing a sequence of individual case studies concerning Flavin, Morris, Judd, Nauman, and Weiner. Together these artists are represented in the Guggenheim Museum’s Panza Collection by a total of 122 works. Each artist’s practice possesses its own demands regarding preservation and display, but the holdings of the four artists’ works also collectively implicate many issues and practices that are broadly at stake for art throughout the period.
The five case studies are being carried out through a set of consistent procedures: exhaustive archival research; interviews with the artists, artists' estates, fabricators, former assistants, and other relevant parties; and the installation and physical examination of selected works. Central to the process is the close involvement of the Advisory Committee, a group of curators, conservators, and scholars who represent a diverse range of institutions. Serving for the duration of the project, the Advisory Committee holds meetings at the culmination of each case study. These two-day committee meetings include the firsthand examination of works in the Panza Collection followed by an extensive review and discussion of issues, both practical and philosophical.
The first Advisory Committee meeting took place in July 2011 and focused on the work of Dan Flavin. The second committee meeting, regarding the work of Robert Morris, was held in March 2012.
the end of the PCI first phase, the findings, including edited
transcripts of the Advisory Committee meetings, will be made available
online and a public symposium
will be organized at the Guggenheim Museum.
Browse a selection of works from the Panza Collection in the Collection Online.
GUGGENHEIM PROJECT TEAM
The Panza Collection Initiative was initially conceived by Carol Stringari, Deputy Director and Chief Conservator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and Nancy Spector, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Stringari and Spector continue to work closely with the dedicated project team.
Curator, Panza Collection
Conservator, Panza Collection
Assistant Curator, Panza Collection
Curatorial Assistant, Panza Collection
Professor of Art History and Criticism, Montserrat College of Art
Professor of History of Art, University College London
General Artistic Director, Stedelijk Museum
Senior Researcher, Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage
Senior Scientist, The Getty Conservation Institute
Director, Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art, Harvard University Art Museums; Associate Director for Conservation and Research, Whitney Museum of American Art
Director of Collections and Conservation, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
ADJUNCT COMMITTEE: DAN FLAVIN
Former Curator and Archivist, Dan Flavin Studio
Curator, National Gallery of Art
Director Emeritus, Chinati Foundation
ADJUNCT COMMITTEE: ROBERT MORRIS
Curator, National Gallery of Art