Meet the Guggenheim Conservators

Carol Stringari

Deputy Director and Chief Conservator

Carol Stringari joined the Guggenheim staff in 1992. She is responsible for assessing and developing policies and procedures for the care and treatment of the collection. Working closely with the conservation and curatorial staffs, she identifies priorities and oversees research and treatment. She manages conservation for a global loan and exhibition program, working with the staff to assess risk and develop guidelines for safe travel and installation, as well as for environmental conditions and the proper storage of the collection. She has led an initiative to garner advocacy for conservation by establishing the Conservation Council, and is overseeing the design of a new satellite lab at the museum. She has carried out research and treatment on a wide range of artworks, including works by Vincent van Gogh, László Moholy-Nagy, Robert Ryman, Bruce Nauman, and Ad Reinhardt.

Stringari played a key role in formulating and implementing the Guggenheim's Panza Collection Conservation Initiative as well as the Variable Media Initiative. The Variable Media Initiative is an innovative methodology for documenting conceptual and ephemeral works for long-term preservation that involves working with contemporary artists to gain a thorough understanding of the conceptual underpinnings and material nature of their work. She co-curated an exhibition specifically on this theme in 2004, titled Seeing Double: Emulation in Theory and Practice. In 2008, Stringari curated the exhibition Imageless, the culmination of a long-term research project on the scientific analysis and experimental laser treatment of a damaged study painting by Reinhardt. She is a founding member of the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art and is an adjunct professor at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

Stringari holds a BA in art history from the University of Pennsylvania and an MS from the art conservation program at Winterthur Museum/University of Delaware. Before her tenure at the Guggenheim, she worked at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Selected Bibliography
Jones, Caitlin, and Carol Stringari. "Seeing Double: Emulation in Theory and Practice." In New Media in the White Cube and Beyond, edited by Christiane Paul, pp. 220–232. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.

Stringari, Carol. "The Art of Seeing." In Imageless: The Scientific Study and Experimental Treatment of an Ad Reinhardt Black Painting, pp. 18–49. Exh. cat. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2008.

Stringari, Carol. "'Beyond Conservative': The Conservator's Role in Variable Media Preservation." In The Variable Media Approach: Permanence through Change, edited by Alain Depocas, Jon Ippolito, and Caitlin Jones, pp. 55–59. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2003.

Stringari, Carol. "Installations and problems of preservation." In Modern Art: Who Cares? An Interdisciplinary Research Project and an International Symposium on the Conservation of Modern and Contemporary Art, edited by I. Hummelen and D. Stillé, pp. 272–281. Amsterdam: Foundation for the Conservation of Modern Art and Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage, 1999.

Stringari, Carol, and Ellen Pratt. "The Identification and Characterization of Acrylic Emulsion Paint Media." In Saving the Twentieth Century: The Conservation of Modern Materials, edited by David Grattan, pp. 411–440. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute, 1993.

Stringari, Carol. "Vincent van Gogh's Triptych of Trees in Blossom, Arles (1888), Part 1. Examination and Treatment of the Altered Surface Coatings." In Cleaning, Retouching and Coatings: Contributions to the 1990 IIC Congress, Brussels, pp. 126–130. Brussels: International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 1990.

Julie Barten

Senior Conservator, Collections and Exhibitions

Julie Barten joined the Guggenheim conservation staff in 1994. She has focused on both modern and contemporary paintings in the collection, including treatment of and research on important works by Robert Delaunay, Morris Louis, Robert Ryman, Brice Marden, and Antoni Tápies. She has managed conservation's role in innumerable exhibitions, helping to ensure that works exhibited at the museum are appropriately conserved and safely transported and installed. She is currently engaged in a scholarly research project regarding Picasso's Woman Ironing (1904).

Barten received a BA in art history from Yale University and both an MA in art history and a Certificate in Conservation from New York University, Institute of Fine Arts. She held an internship and a Samuel H. Kress Foundation Fellowship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, prior to her employment at the Guggenheim.

Selected Bibliography
Ravenc, Rachel, Julie Barten, Francesca Esmay, Thomas Learner, and Carol Stringari. "Simply White: The Diverse Painting Materials of Robert Ryman." In AIC Paintings Specialty Group Postprints, vol. 22, pp. 32–40. Washington, D.C.: American Institute for Conservation, 2009.

Barten, Julie. "A Precarious Equilibrium." In Imageless: The Scientific Study and Experimental Treatment of an Ad Reinhardt Black Painting. Exh. cat. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2008.

Keynan, Daria, Julie Barten, and Elizabeth Estabrook. "Installation Methods for Robert Ryman's Wall-Mounted Works." The Paper Conservator vol. 31 (2007): pp. 7–16.

Barten, Julie. "The Recovery of Fra Filippo Lippi's Four Saints." In AIC Paintings Specialty Group Postprints, pp. 19–26. Washington, D.C.: American Institute for Conservation, 1996.

Esther Chao

Associate Conservator, Objects

Esther Chao joined the museum in 2006 and focuses on modern and contemporary sculpture, as well as installation art. She oversees the documentation and intake of new acquisitions and examines and treats works for exhibition and loan. She executed the research and treatment of Cry Dragon/Cry Wolf: The Ark of Genghis Khan (1996), which included more than 90 sheepskin floats, for Cai Guo-Qiang's 2008 retrospective in New York, and she traveled to the Beijing venue as the conservation liaison. She was the conservator for the exhibitions John Chamberlain: Choices (2012) and Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity (2011) at the Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Prior to joining the Guggenheim, Chao specialized in ethnographic and archaeological materials and worked at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University. She was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in object conservation at the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, and held internships at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Chao received BAs in art history and anthropology from the University of Arizona and an MA in art history and a Certificate in Conservation from New York University, Institute of Fine Arts.

Selected Bibliography
Chao, Esther. "Cry Dragon/Cry Wolf: The Ark of Genghis Khan: Treatment of Ethnographic Sheepskin Floats in the Context of Contemporary Art." Paper presented at the International Council of Museums­—Committee for Conservation, 15th Triennial Conference, New Delhi, India, September 22–26, 2008.

Chao, E., and J. Jungels. "Technical Study and Conservation of Colonial Period South American Figurines." Symbols (Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Spring 2005): pp. 6–8.

Utermohlen, H., and Esther Chao. "Moving a Museum Collection: A Project at the Centro León in the Dominican Republic." In 14th Triennial Meeting, The Hague Preprints (ICOM Committee for Conservation), edited by Isabelle Verger. London: Earthscan Ltd, 2005.

Kronthal, L., J. Levinson, C. Dignard, E. Chao, and J. Down. "Beva 371 and Its Use as an Adhesive for Skin and Leather Repairs: Background and a Review of Treatments." Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 42, no. 2 (2003 Summer): pp. 341–362.

Ellis, M., C. McGlinchey, and E. Chao. "Daylight Fluorescent Colors as Artistic Media." In The Broad Spectrum: Studies in the Materials, Techniques, and Conservation of Color on Paper, edited by Harriet Stratis and Britt Salvesen. London: Archetype Publications, 2002.

Francesca Esmay

Conservator, Panza Collection

Francesca Esmay joined the Guggenheim staff in 2010 as part of the Panza Collection Initiative (PCI), a three-year research project funded by the Mellon Foundation that addresses the long-term preservation and future exhibition of artworks from the collection of Minimalist, Post-Minimalist, and Conceptual art 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. The first phase of this project is dedicated to the examination of works by Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Bruce Nauman, Robert Morris, and Lawrence Weiner.

Esmay comes to the Guggenheim from Dia Art Foundation, where she served from 2006 to 2010 as the organization's first conservator and initiated a comprehensive conservation and collections-care program. From 2001 to 2006, she worked in a similar capacity as the first conservator at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, overseeing conservation and collections care for the museum's permanent collection and temporary exhibitions.

With broad experience in the examination and treatment of a wide variety of modern and contemporary artworks, Esmay has pursued numerous conservation research projects, ranging from determining ways to measure the color and intensity of Flavin's fluorescent lights to establishing methods to document Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty (1970) using aerial balloon photography.

Esmay holds a master of science in architectural conservation from Columbia University and a bachelor of arts in art history from New York University.

Selected Bibliography
Esmay, Francesca, and Tom Learner, Alan Phenix, and Jim Druzik. "Bright Ideas: Exploring Ways to Document Dan Flavin's Fluorescent Light." Paper presented at the International Council of Museums—Committee for Conservation, 16th Triennial Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, September 19–23, 2011.

Esmay, Francesca, and Rand Eppich, Tom Learner, Aurora Tang. "Monitoring Spiral Jetty: Aerial Balloon Photography." Paper presented at the International Council of Museums—Committee for Conservation, 16th Triennial Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, September 19–23, 2011.

Esmay, Francesca. "Lasting Castings: Preserving Donald Judd's Outdoor Works in Concrete." Paper presented at the Chinati Foundation Open House, Marfa, Texas, October 10, 2009.

Esmay, Francesca, and Katie Sonnenborn. "Preservation Issues for Art in the Landscape." Paper presented at ALI-ABA Legal Issues in Museum Administration. Scottsdale, Arizona, April 2–4, 2008.

Esmay, Francesca. "Surface and Structure: An examination of John Chamberlain's painted and chromium-plated metal sculptures." Paper presented at "It's All in the Fit," a symposium on the work of John Chamberlain, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas, April 22–23, 2006.

Esmay, Francesca. "Permanent Impermanence: Conserving Monument to the Last Horse." Paper presented at the 5th Symposium on Conserving Synthetic Materials, Vitra Design Museum in conjunction with the AXA Art Conservation Project, Weil am Rhein, Germany, June 28, 2005.

Esmay, Francesca, and Roger Griffith. "Investigation of Cleaning Methods for Untreated Wood." Paper presented at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the American Institute for Conservation (published in postprints), Portland, Oregon, June 9–14, 2004.

Esmay, Francesca. "Conserving an Impermanent Permanent Installation: School No. 6 by Ilya Kabakov." Chinati Foundation Annual Newsletter, vol. 8, 2003.

Gillian McMillan

Associate Chief Conservator for the Collection

Gillian McMillan has been a Guggenheim conservator since 1984. She has conducted numerous technical and scientific examinations and has led the conservation treatment of paintings from the early modern period in the Solomon R. Guggenheim Founding Collection and the Thannhauser Collection. Signature works treated by McMillan include paintings by Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Édouard Manet, Fernand Léger, Jackson Pollock, and Vasily Kandinsky. McMillan is particularly engaged in a long-term research project investigating the Guggenheim's renowned paintings by Kandinsky.

McMillan holds a Diploma in the Conservation of Easel Paintings from Gateshead Technical College, United Kingdom, and served her internship at the Intermuseum Conservation Association, Oberlin College, Ohio. Prior to her Guggenheim appointment, McMillan was a paintings conservator at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

Selected Bibliography
Steele, Elizabeth, Gillian McMillan, Narayan Khandekar, and Erin Mysak. "Side by Side: The Technical Investigation of Sketch I for Painting with White Border and Painting with White Border." In Kandinsky and the Harmony of Silence: Painting with White Border, edited by Elsa Smithgall. New Haven and London: The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., in association with Yale University Press, 2011.

McMillan, Gillian, and Vanessa Kowalski. "Kandinsky's Materials and Techniques: A Preliminary Study of Five Paintings." In Kandinsky, edited by Tracey Bashkoff. Exh. cat. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2009.

McMillan, Gillian. "Touring Robert Rauschenberg's 32-Foot Long Painting Barge." In Big Pictures: Problems and Solutions for Treating Outsize Paintings, edited by Sally Woodcock. London: Archetype Publications, 2005.

McMillan, Gillian. "Restoring a Jackson Pollock." Guggenheim Magazine (Fall 2005): pp. 20–21.

McMillan, Gillian. "The Discovery of Oil Sketches on the Reverse of Le Bassin de Jas de Bouffan." In 11th Triennial Meeting Edinburgh Preprints (ICOM Committee for Conservation) vol. 1, edited by Janet Bridgland. London: James & James (Science Publishers) Ltd., 1996.

Nathan Otterson

Conservator, Objects

Nathan Otterson returned to the Guggenheim in 2005. He focuses on scientific documentation and treatment of the Guggenheim Museum's modern and contemporary sculpture collection. Most recently he has concentrated on the treatment of works by Matthew Barney, Joseph Beuys, Maurizio Cattelan, Alberto Modigliani, and Alexander Calder. He is currently researching Calder red paints from the 1950s, the mounting methods and deterioration of Richard Serra rubber works, the bases used on Modigliani heads, and surface finishes found on Constantin Brancusi sculptures. Otterson also oversees complex installation projects and exhibitions, which include objects created in a wide range of materials and working methods. Recent exhibitions at the Guggenheim have included Louise Bourgeois, Cai Guo Qiang: I Want to Believe, and Maurizio Cattelan: All.

Otterson received an MA and a Certificate of Advanced Study in art conservation from the State University of New York, College at Buffalo, and a BA in studio art and communication studies and theater art from Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota. Prior to his current employment at the Guggenheim, Otterson held positions at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Guggenheim Museum; and the Midwest Art Conservation Center, Minneapolis. He has completed internships at the Brooklyn Museum and Central Park Conservancy, New York.

Joanna Phillips

Associate Conservator of Contemporary Art

Joanna Phillips joined the museum in 2008 and focuses on the conservation of time-based media artworks, which include video, film, audio, and computer-based works. At the Guggenheim, Phillips has launched a media art conservation lab and is developing and implementing new strategies for the preservation, reinstallation, and documentation of media artworks. She lectures and publishes on this topic internationally. Phillips has carried out the research, treatment, and documentation of numerous collection artworks, including works by Nam June Paik, William Kentridge, Marina Abramović, Tacita Dean, and Francis Alÿs. As a board member of the Electronic Media Group of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, Phillips programmed and co-organized the conference TechFocus I: Caring for Video Art, held at the Guggenheim Museum in 2010.

Prior to her Guggenheim appointment, Phillips specialized in the conservation of contemporary art at the Swiss Institute for Art Research in Zürich and explored the challenges of media art conservation as a researcher in the Swiss project AktiveArchive. Phillips holds an MA in paintings conservation from the Hochschule für Bildenden Künste, Dresden, Germany.

Selected Bibliography
Gfeller, J., J. Phillips, and A. Jarczyk. "Compendium of Image Errors in Analogue Video." In KUNSTmaterial, vol. 2, edited by Karoline Beltinger. Zurich: Swiss Institute for Art Research, 2012.

Phillips, Joanna. "Shifting Equipment Significance in Time-based Media Artworks." In The Electronic Media Review, vol. 1, pp. 139–154. Washington, D.C.: American Institute for Conservation, 2012.

Phillips, Joanna. "Kunstmaterial oder Elektroschrott? über das Sterben und Auferstehen elektronischer Kunstwerke." In Wann stirbt ein Kunstwerk?, edited by Angela Matyssek, pp. 105–124. Munich: Verlag Silke Schreiber, 2010.

Phillips, Joanna. "Interview with Joanna Phillips." By Emanuel Lorrain. Packed, May 10, 2010.

Phillips, Joanna. "The Reconstruction of Video Art. A Fine Line between Authorized Re-performance and Historically Informed Interpretation." In Reconstructing Swiss Video Art from the 1970s and 1980s, edited by Irene Schubiger, pp. 158–165. Zurich: JRP Ringier, 2009.

Jeffrey Warda

Conservator, Paper

Jeffrey Warda joined the Guggenheim's conservation staff in 2006. Since then he has been involved in the care and treatment of collection works on paper and photographs. Warda recently implemented a three-year project to rehouse the works-on-paper and photograph collections and finished a two-year digitization project of Robert Smithson's Hotel Palenque and Yucatan Mirror Displacements (1-9) (1969). Warda was chair of both the Electronic Media Specialty Group (EMG) (2006–08) and the Digital Photographic Documentation Task Force (2007–08) of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC). In 2009, he received the Preservation Publication Award from the Society of American Archivists and the President's Award from AIC for his book, The AIC Guide to Digital Photography and Conservation Documentation. He is the founder and managing editor of EMG's biennial publication, The Electronic Media Review, and he serves on the Publications Committee of the AIC.

Prior to joining the Guggenheim, Warda was a Samuel H. Kress Foundation Fellow in paper conservation at the Brooklyn Museum and held internships at the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum.

Warda received an MA and a Certificate of Advanced Study in art conservation from the State University of New York, University at Buffalo, and holds a BA in art history from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.

Selected Bibliography
Warda, Jeffrey, ed. The AIC Guide to Digital Photography and Conservation Documentation. By Franziska Frey, Dawn Heller, Dan Kushel, Timothy Vitale, and Gawain Weaver. Washington, D.C.: American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 2008 (first edition) and 2011 (second edition).

Warda, Jeffrey, and Irene Brückle, Anikó Bezúr, and Dan Kushel. "Analysis of Agarose, Carbopol, and Laponite Gel Poultices in Paper Conservation," Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 46 (2007): pp. 263–279.

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