Conservation at the Kimbell
Louis Kahn, the Kimbell’s esteemed architect of the original building, designed the conservation studio with a north-facing glass wall beneath a double-height vault that allows ample natural light for the examination and treatment of paintings. The large window wall also provides visitors to the Kimbell’s east gallery with a partial view of the activities of the conservation department. Astutely planned to be adjacent to photography, the storage vault, and the files in the registrar’s office, the conservation studio is also within easy reach of the curators’ and director’s offices, allowing for frequent collaboration among conservators and curators. This reflected the vision of Dr. Ric Brown, the Kimbell’s first director, who wanted conservation to be embedded within the total Museum program. When the Kimbell opened in 1972, it became the first museum in Texas and one of the earliest in America to have a purpose-built professional conservation studio. An ideal environment in which to examine, clean, and restore works of art, it has served as a model for many conservation studios that have followed.
Over the past 40 years, the role of conservation at the Kimbell has expanded to encompass a wide range of activities. In addition to the examination and treatment of works of art, the two full-time paintings conservators consult on a range of environmental issues, support the Kimbell’s active exhibition program, carry out technical examinations and research using state-of-the-art scientific equipment, and contribute to publications on artists' working methods and materials. These technical studies frequently provide crucial new evidence for resolving issues of dating, iconography, and authenticity, as well as revealing important aspects of artists’ techniques.