About Guggenheim Conservation

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum's Conservation Staff

The Guggenheim Museum’s permanent collection is kept in trust for the public, with the goal that it will be exhibited, studied, and enjoyed for generations to come. In order to ensure that all works are stored, exhibited, and transported according to international museum standards, the museum’s conservation staff plays a vitally important role in preventative conservation, research, and treatment of the collection.

Comprised of conservators who specialize in paintings, paper, and objects of the late-19th century to the present, the Guggenheim Conservation Department is fundamental to the mission of the museum as a guardian of cultural property. The conservators set policies and procedures for the maintenance and long-term preservation of the collection, and they establish best practices for storage, transport, and handling. In addition, Guggenheim conservators oversee safe installation of loans and exhibitions in New York and abroad.

As the scope of the collection and exhibitions has grown, so has the responsibility of its conservators. The founding collection of the Guggenheim Museum focused mainly on paintings and works of art on paper. However, in the 1950s the museum began to collect modern sculpture and, most recently, the museum has broadened the scope of its collecting to include contemporary art executed in a wide range of materials, creating new challenges and areas of exploration for the department.

In order to preserve both the physical and aesthetic integrity of the collection, the team of conservators conducts scientific research in an effort to better understand the materials and techniques used to create the artworks, revealing the working process of the artist, studying deterioration mechanisms, and testing treatment methods. Conservators work closely with curators, scholars, and often the artists themselves to thoroughly research the historical context of the artwork and its appropriate presentation.

Contemporary art presents challenges that often require solutions that diverge from the treatment of more traditional materials. The Guggenheim is committed to collecting works by contemporary artists, thus new acquisitions often comprise large-scale installations that may be fabricated industrially, time-based or digital media, and artist-specific installations that evolve with each new venue.

The careful evaluation of materials and authorship through sophisticated scientific methods, therefore, must be coupled with collaborative and interdisciplinary discussions. In an effort to identify strategies for preservation of unconventional works, an interdisciplinary team of curators, conservators, and technicians developed the Variable Media Initiative in 1999. The Variable Media approach was a new paradigm that encouraged artists working in more ephemeral formats to define their work independently from medium so that the work can be preserved for posterity once its current medium is obsolete. Since then, these concepts have been developed and applied to many artworks in the collection, informing acquisition guidelines and documentation methods. The Guggenheim Conservation Department is working with a consortium of museums and other cultural institutions to improve upon and disseminate information about the nature of works that defy traditional categories.

To learn more about this collaboration, visit the Variable Media Initiative, download the publication Permanence Through Change: The Variable Media Approach (PDF), or visit the Variable Media Network website.



Guggenheim Museum

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Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
1071 Fifth Avenue
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New York, NY 10128-0173
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Guggenheim staff, 1968

Explore Our Archives

Visit Findings for interesting highlights from the Library & Archives collection.

The Panza Collection

Panza Collection

Over three hundred fifty works of Minimalist, Post-Minimalist, and Conceptual art