Installation view of “Dan Flavin” (1995–96) at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo in New York. Photo: David Heald.

Guggenheim Receives $750,000 for Scholarship on 1960s and ’70s Art

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation has received a $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support the third phase of a multiyear investigation into the best preservation practices for minimal, post-minimal, and conceptual art. 

The research project, dubbed the Panza Collection Initiative, began in 2010 and is focused on the extensive holdings acquired from Italian collector Giuseppe Panza di Biumo in 1991 and 1992, which includes works by Donald Judd, Dan Flavin and Robert Morris.

While the Guggenheim was eager to add Panza’s 350 works of art from the 1960s and the 1970s to its collection, it also knew that with these works came a number of aesthetic, philosophical, and legal questions. Works made by artists such as Judd, who rejected traditional materials for industrial ones and often used fabricators to produce his works, raise issues related to authenticity and ownership.

Led by curator and scholar Jeffrey Weiss and conservator Francesca Esmay, the PCI’s goal is to ensure that the museum’s collection of art are "are researched, preserved, and presented to the public with proper consideration for historical context, material integrity, and artistic intention.” 

Phases one and two of the initiative were dedicated to case studies of more than 140 artworks by artists Flavin, Robert Irwin, Judd, Morris, Bruce Nauman, Lawrence Weiner, and Doug Wheeler; in-depth archival research; interviews with artists, studio assistants, and fabricators; and an ongoing exchange with an international advisory committee of conservators and art historians to foster discussion and reach conclusions regarding the issues presented by each of the studies. The Mellon foundation also supported phases one and two with grants totaling $2.5 million.

The museum will use the Mellon grant to disseminate its findings through a new comprehensive online archive so that the scholarship and the objects will be more accessible to the general public. The third phase of the PCI will also include a symposium to be held in New York in spring 2019 and the publication of a book presenting a thematic approach to the research and findings of the project, as well as essays stemming from the proceedings of the PCI symposium. 

The PCI was conceived and is overseen by Lena Stringari, deputy director and chief conservator at the Guggenheim and Nancy Spector, the museum’s artistic director and deputy director.