Chief of Conservation

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National Gallery of Art
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Friday, 24 March, 2023 - 12:00

The National Gallery of Art serves the nation by welcoming all people to explore and experience art, creativity, and our shared humanity.

The Opportunity:

The National Gallery of Art is launching a search for a successor to the Chief of Conservation, Mervin Richard, who is stepping down after 14 years of distinguished leadership and 38 years of dedicated service to the organization. This is a significant inflection point for the Gallery as it recruits a Chief of Conservation who will respect the legacy of the department and embrace the new strategic priorities set forth by the National Gallery’s leadership and staff as well as the evolving nature of art conservation today.

The Chief of Conservation will have an opportunity to create an exciting new chapter for the conservation division focused on the future of conservation and how it can continue to lead and serve the National Gallery, its visitors, and the field. Building on a solid organizational base, this leader will work with a talented team and a dedicated and committed group of colleagues throughout the organization. Reporting to the Chief Curatorial and Conservation Officer, they will articulate and implement a vision for the conservation division that supports the mission of the National Gallery and considers the Gallery’s evolving collection, sustainable 21st century practices, and dedication to national service. The incumbent will be an advocate for the collection and the staff and foster interdivisional collaboration as the division intensifies its efforts to support the museum’s strategic priorities. An accomplished and effective leader and manager, the Chief of Conservation will possess strong communication and interpersonal skills as well as the ability to represent the department with funders, visitors, and the conservation field domestically and internationally. The division is fortunate to have endowed funds to support research, publishing and allow innovative approaches that reflect the latest advances in the field and allow the Gallery to help other colleagues and institutions across the country.

About The National Gallery of Art:

The National Gallery of Art (“the Gallery”) was originally conceived as “a collection of collections” and given to the people of the United States by Andrew W. Mellon – a financier and art collector from Pittsburgh who came to Washington in 1921 to serve as Secretary of the Treasury. During his years of public service, he came to believe that the United States should have a national art museum equal to those of other great nations.

Mellon wrote to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, offering to donate his superb collection for a new museum and to use his own funds to construct a building and endowment for its use. To encourage others to give, Mellon insisted that the museum should be called the National Gallery of Art. Each object accessioned into the collection is privately donated or purchased with privately donated funds. By the time of the museum’s 25th anniversary in 1966, 114 exhibition galleries were filled with great works of art – testimony to the timely and compelling vision Andrew Mellon had for a federal-private partnership to benefit the nation.

Today, the National Gallery's campus includes the original neoclassical West Building designed by John Russell Pope, a modern East Building designed by I.M. Pei, and a 6.1-acre Sculpture Garden. In 2014, the Gallery assumed stewardship of a vast part of the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s world-renowned collection of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts, prints, drawings, and photographs, deepening public access to the country’s diverse cultural legacy.

The Gallery’s over 150,000-object collection is comprised of treasures of European and American art from the Middle Ages to the present day. The museum is actively deepening and expanding its collection of works by BIPOC artists in the United States and international modern and contemporary art with an emphasis on the Global South, which will increasingly generate inclusive historical and contemporary narratives in the Gallery’s exhibitions and displays. Loan exhibitions also enable the museum to display art from a wider range of cultures and periods. The Gallery welcomes more than five million visitors each year – 60 percent from outside the District’s metropolitan area.

Scholarship has long been an institutional priority at the Gallery. The Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (The Center) was established as an integral part of the opening of the East Building in 1978. The Center brings scholars together in close relationship to the Gallery’s art collection and museum colleagues, enhancing the understanding of art and architecture. A major art research library also houses a collection of more than 400,000 books, periodicals, and documents on the history, theory, and criticism of art and architecture, with an emphasis on European and American art from the eleventh century to the present.

The National Gallery obtains 85 percent of its $247 million budget from the federal government, and good relations with Capitol Hill are critical. The Gallery has a $1.1 billion endowment, and the Gallery’s bylaws forbid incurring deficits or debt. Of the approximately 1,100 staff, 800+ are federal personnel; the remaining are privately funded. The Gallery is always free to visitors.

All education and public programs are free and targeted to both regional and national educators, students, families, adults, and volunteers. The Board meets three times each year. The Board is comprised of five private citizens called General Trustees, and four ex-officio senior federal officials. The General Trustees serve renewable 10-year terms until age 75 and the Board selects new members. The Trustees’ Council and Director’s Circle offer opportunities for volunteer involvement and support. In addition to the federal funding through congressional appropriations, an additional approximately $35 million is raised privately annually to support programming, acquisitions, conservation, the endowment, and certain staff positions.

Today, the National Gallery of Art is proud of its superb collection, international stature and collaborations, campus, and its deep commitment to scholarship, national service, and excellence.

A Reimagined Brand:

Under the leadership of its fifth director, Kaywin Feldman, the National Gallery of Art unveiled a reimagined brand built on new and revived vision and mission statements, with accompanying values and strategic priorities that center on serving the nation and engaging diverse audiences in May 2022.

"With our doors finally open, we re-present to our public how the National Gallery will meet our mission of welcoming all people to explore and experience art, creativity, and our shared humanity—with generosity, inclusivity, and joy.... A brand is more than a new logo or color palette—a brand is the embodiment of what we offer and what our audiences experience. Most importantly, it helps us demonstrate what our vision, mission, and values promise to the nation", said Feldman.

A Recommitment to the Nation-
Paul Mellon, son of our founder Andrew Mellon, said at the National Gallery's 1941 dedication, "It was my father's hope . . . that the National Gallery would become not a static but a living institution, growing in usefulness and importance to artists, scholars, and the general public." Taking inspiration from his words, the museum will renew our efforts to reach national audiences and offer programs with an enhanced focus on public service.

Vision Statement-
Of the nation and for all the people.

Mission Statement-
The National Gallery of Art serves the nation by welcoming all people to explore and experience art, creativity, and our shared humanity.

Integrity; diversity, equity, access, and inclusion; excellence; deepening public understanding; curiosity and continuous learning; empathy and generosity of spirit; and agility and responsiveness.

Strategic Priorities-
Reflect and attract the nation; become the nation's primary resource for art and creativity; provide a visitor-focused experience; and operate a sustainable and equitable museum.

Energized by the monumental architecture of the National Gallery's campus, Pentagram united the old and the new, the classic and the modern when creating our new brand. The emphasis on National in our logo reflects our renewed commitment to serve as the nation's art museum. And the new color palette represents the institution the National Gallery aspires to be: energetic, vibrant, and diverse. The brand is intended to unite the National Gallery not just in our communications, but in our commitment to becoming more open, inclusive, and welcoming to everyone.

The National Gallery of Art Leadership:

The Gallery is managed by a team of seven executive officers appointed by the Board of Trustees: the Director; Deputy Director; Administrator, Chief Curatorial and Conservation Officer; Collections, Exhibitions and Programs Officer; Dean, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts; Secretary and General Counsel; and the Treasurer.

The Conservation Division:

The conservation division at the National Gallery of Art is one of the largest and most comprehensive among the world’s art museums. Its staff are committed not only to preserving the nation’s art collection but also to conducting scientific research to advise the field and to collaborate widely with colleagues across the United States and abroad. Conservators work closely with the National Gallery curators to care for and study works from the collection, often undertaking technical art history studies. Conservators share their work with our audiences, providing meaningful perspectives that unlock artist’s materials, practices and processes as well as the value of caring for and preserving artistic treasures. The division publishes Facture, a biennial peer reviewed journal that explores themes in the materiality and history of art, addressing all aspects of the discipline from conservation treatment and history to technical art history and fundamental scientific research.

The National Gallery’s conservation division celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2022. It houses specialized departments devoted to the treatment of paintings, works on paper, objects, photographs, textiles, and frames (as part of the preventive conservation department). The division also has a department of scientific research, one of the first of its kind in the field, which includes imaging science among its cutting-edge activities. The conservation division relies on ConservationSpace, a web-based digital document management system, for creating and preserving permanent records of the examination, scientific investigation, and treatment of works that are in the National Gallery’s collection. The conservators, scientists, technicians, and other specialists ensure that the Gallery’s holdings, which comprise more than 150,000 works of art from the twelfth century to the present, are preserved in perpetuity for future generations. Highly regarded worldwide for its contributions to the field, the division serves as an authority on new and existing conservation techniques. The division has an active fellowship program for conservators in training and has mentored many graduate students who have gone on to become leaders in the field.

Major Responsibilities:

• Articulate and implement a vision for the conservation division that supports the mission, vision, values and strategic priorities of the National Gallery and takes into account the Gallery’s evolving collection, sustainable 21st century practices, and dedication to national service.
• Serve as the primary ambassador and advocate for the department. They will develop a creative, forward-thinking vision and ensure that the foundational role of the division is recognized and understood. It is expected that under their guidance, the division will remain a leader in the field and a training ground for fellows and interns and the next generation of conservators.
• Oversee the operation of the conservation division comprised of six conservation departments, a scientific research department, and an administrative office. The Chief of Conservation has eight direct reports and oversees a total of 50 professional staff. Develop and implement multiyear plans to achieve strategic goals in alignment with the new values and strategic priorities established by the Gallery. Responsible for future staffing plans, project allocation, professional development, and federal and private operating budgets in collaboration with the division administrator.
• Provide administrative oversight for the conservation and preservation of works of art in accordance with the highest standards of the profession. Work closely with all curatorial departments to identify the conservation needs of their collections, to establish priorities for treatment, preservation, and the technical study of works of art. Similarly, the Chief of Conservation will organize and oversee the examination of works of art that enter the museum through acquisition, gift and loan, including loan exhibitions. They will also be involved in decisions related to the Museum environment, installations, capital projects, exhibitions and storage.
• Work with colleagues within and outside the conservation division to devise viable ways to share conservation work and research with the National Gallery’s audiences.
• Represent the division on appropriate internal committees and in national and international conservation organizations.
• Develop a strong collaborative and empowered culture where staff are valued for individual contributions as well as teamwork within the division and work with other departments.
• Demonstrate a commitment to sustainability goals and to diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of the Gallery’s work.
• Encourage and support research, publishing and innovative approaches that reflect and contribute to advances in the field.

Ideal Experience, Characteristics and Qualifications:

• Master’s degree in conservation or equivalent degree; minimum of 7 – 10 years of progressively responsible experience as a fine art conservator, with substantial supervisory experience. Combination of education and relevant experience may be considered.
• Strong leadership and administrative skills with proven ability to manage staff, budgets and resources of a group of professional team members.
• Involvement in complex interdepartmental operations and ability to interact with a range of team members including architects, art handlers, artists, attorneys, building engineers, curators, collectors, development officers, donors, foundation and corporate sponsors, educators, exhibition designers, publishers, registrars, international counterparts, leadership team members, and museum trustees, among others.
• Recognized as a leader in the field of conservation and an active participant in national and international conservation organizations.
• Demonstrated achievements in conservation treatments, independent research and publications relating to the preservation of objects, artists’ materials and techniques, and the use of analytical instrumentation.
• Knowledge of technological advances in the field of conservation, including digital imaging and data management.
• Skill and success in fundraising for conservation initiatives.
• Experience with and/or a commitment to ensuring an audience-focused experience and operating a sustainable and equitable museum.
• Model the National Gallery’s values of diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion; curiosity and continuous learning; empathy and generosity of spirit; integrity; deepening public understanding; and agility and responsiveness.

The National Gallery of Art is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages individuals of all backgrounds and cultures to consider this leadership position. The Gallery’s commitment to inclusivity encompasses but is not limited to, diversity in nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, and disability.

The National Gallery of Art has retained Sally M. Sterling Executive Search to support the search for its next Chief of Conservation. We welcome comments, nominations, or expressions of interest. All applicants are asked to include a letter of interest with their resume.

Please send an email with supporting materials to the confidential email address: