Campus & Community

Art Museums appoint renowned conservator

3 min read

James Cuno, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard University Art Museums, and Maxwell L. Anderson, director of the Whitney Museum of American Art, announced their joint appointment of Carol Mancusi-Ungaro as director of the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art at Harvard University and director of Conservation of the Whitney Museum. The appointments become effective April 1. The Whitney appointment is accompanied by a $5 million grant from the Robert W. Wilson Foundation in support of conservation at the Whitney, given by Whitney trustee Robert Wilson.

Mancusi-Ungaro, chief conservator of The Menil Collection in Houston, is widely regarded as one of the leading experts on the conservation of 20th century works of art. She directed the restoration of the Rothko Chapel paintings at The Menil Collection, advised on the restoration of Barnett Newman’s “Cathedra,” and has done defining research in the field for more than 30 years.

“Carol Mancusi-Ungaro has been a pioneer in researching the materials and techniques of modern artists,” James Cuno commented. “Her work on the paintings of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Cy Twombly among others, forms the basis for any understanding of their achievement as painters and is a perfect complement to Harvard’s long tradition of technical research into the art of earlier eras. We are extremely pleased that she will extend the work of our Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies and that we can join the Whitney Museum in advancing the work of historians, conservators, and students of modern art.”

“Carol Mancusi-Ungaro’s appointment caps the process undertaken shortly after I arrived, in 1998, of refining and strengthening the Whitney’s focus on its collection,” Anderson commented. “With some 12,000 works in a collection that has grown steadily for more than 70 years, it no longer made sense for the Whitney to solely outsource the care-taking of its most precious resource. We were determined to hire the top expert in the field, and we have. I am also enormously grateful that our trustee, Bob Wilson, has made such an extraordinarily generous commitment to this essential aspect of the institution.”

Anderson continued, “The fact that we can share her expertise through this remarkable research-and-study arrangement with our colleagues at Harvard only makes the appointment more valuable to both institutions and to future generations of conservators.”

Mancusi-Ungaro will reside in New York and travel regularly to Cambridge. As director of conservation at the Whitney, Mancusi-Ungaro will be responsible for the conservation of its collection and for working with artists in the course of that endeavor.

As founding director of the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art at Harvard, Mancusi-Ungaro will conduct her own research as well as direct the Center’s research, and will work closely with students, faculty, and curators at the University. She will assemble an archive of documents, including interviews with and records of artists, conservators, and suppliers, as well as technical literature.