12/8/09 1:11 PMThe Art of Conservation Sees Light at the Getty - New York TimesPage 2 of 5http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/29/arts/artsspecial/29conserve.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
Jeff Maish, a conservator at theGetty Villa, rebuilds the Altamurakrater, from 460 B.C.
shift of the value of conservation and its professionalism, and the rolethat a conservator plays inthe institution," saidTimothy P. Whalen, thedirector of the GettyConservation Institute in LosAngeles, a division of the J.Paul Getty Trust that supports art conservation throughoutthe world. (The institute is one of four divisions under thetrust's umbrella; the other three are the Getty Foundation,the Getty Research Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum,which includes the Getty Center in Los Angeles and theGetty Villa in Malibu.) "Conservators are no longer justthought of as the people who just clean the painting or don't participate in the conversations that lead a museum,"he said.In the past, conservators were often relegated to basementswith insufficient light and space. Now their elevated statusis marked most clearly by their work spaces, often roomswith views. At the de Young Museum in San Francisco,which reopened last October, conservation rooms overlook Golden Gate Park. At the Morgan Library in New York,which is reopening April 29, the Thaw Conservation Center will have an entire floor of a town house with views of theEmpire State Building. And at the Smithsonian AmericanArt Museum in Washington, reopening in July, rooms withglass partitions will allow visitors to view projects.At the new Getty Villa, which reopened in January, theconservation space to care for its 44,000 objects hasdoubled in size, and many areas are flooded with naturallight.Upstairs there are four treatment rooms instead of two, eachdesigned for a specific task. For instance, in one room thatopens onto a sunny courtyard, conservators arereconstructing a fifth-century vessel, called the Altamurakrater, from fragments — work that will take three years tocomplete. The villa's underground levels include a digitalradiography laboratory (four times as large as the previousone) and tunnels linking conservation rooms with galleries
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