One of the most important functions of an art museum is preserving and protecting its collections. An intricate marriage of both art and science, art conservation involves researching and assessing the needs of the works of art, implementing preventative treatments, and repairing damaged or deteriorating objects. With a collection numbering over 22,000 objects that span 5,000 years of cultural history, the DMA has an important responsibility to ensure its works of art are properly cared for.
Paintings Conservation Studio
The DMA’s Paintings Conservation Studio is located on the top floor of the Museum’s South Concourse. Featuring high quality technology, the Studio serves as a center for study and treatment of works of art, as well as research into cutting-edge conservation techniques. The retractable design of the Studio’s windowed walls allows visitors to interact with the DMA’s conservators when projects of particular interest or importance are underway. Through this unique component of public access, the DMA aims to provide visitors with a deeper understanding of how works in the collection were made, what has happened to them since they left the artists’ hands, and how the Museum ensures that they are preserved for the future.
An adjacent Conservation Gallery, which is open to the public, was designed to teach visitors about key findings gleaned through conservation-related study and treatment. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition, Behind the Scenes, features paintings from the DMA’s collection installed on pedestals so that they are visible from both front and back.
Mark W. Leonard, Chief Conservator
Leonard has more than thirty years of experience as a painter and restorer, most recently as the Head of the Paintings Conservation Department at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Prior to joining the Getty, he worked in the Paintings Conservation Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for five years. He has restored selected paintings from the collections of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Frick Collection, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the Yale Center for British Art, among many others, and has published extensively on topics relating to conservation study, treatment, technology, and artists’ materials and techniques. Leonard initially studied as an artist before pursuing graduate degrees in art history and paintings conservation at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University.
Fran Baas, Associate Conservator of Objects
Bridging the worlds of objects and textile conservation, Baas previously has worked in conservation labs at the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs, the Barnes Foundation, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and most recently Historic New England. She is a graduate of the SUNY Buffalo’s Masters Program in Art Conservation, where she specialized in object conservation. Before pursuing conservation, Baas obtained her first masters in Museum Science from Texas Tech University, and worked in a variety of collection management and exhibition department positions in museums across the country, including the Art Institute of Chicago and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. With a personal interest in traditional and contemporary craft, she studied glassblowing, printmaking, bronze casting and textile art, among many others. As a craftsperson and textile artist in her spare time, she employs this knowledge of different materials and traditional manufacturing techniques into her own art.
Beginning in 1984, the DMA maintained a small conservation studio devoted to the treatment of objects, which was managed by one full-time objects conservator. For decades, until the July 2012 appointment of Mark Leonard as Chief Conservator, the Museum’s paintings collection received consistent care and treatment from professional conservators in the North Texas region.
The DMA first began raising support to expand its conservation program in 2010, catalyzed by a generous (and strategic) lead gift from an anonymous donor. With Leonard’s arrival two years later, plans were set in motion for design and construction of a new conservation facility. In November 2013, the DMA’s new Paintings Conservation Studio officially opened to the public, signaling the launch of a larger-scale, in-house conservation program.