Ten-Year Panza Collection Initiative Concludes after Engaging Questions About Artwork from 1960s and 1970s and Yielding New Methodologies for Addressing Work from This Period

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum presents Object Lessons: Case Studies in Minimal Art—The Guggenheim Panza Collection Initiative, a major print publication contributing new scholarship on a critical period in art production and the field of conservation. In addition, the museum has launched a new digital archive, the Panza Collection Initiative Records. The book and archive were released upon the conclusion of the Panza Collection Initiative (PCI), a rigorous, three-phase project established in 2010 to investigate the long-term preservation, perpetuation, and display of variable, ephemeral, and fabrication-based artworks of the 1960s and 1970s.

Objects from this period may exist in ways that are unstable rather than fixed, and may be subject to changing conditions of medium and fabrication or the challenge of obsolescence. They are also often subject to the influence of assistants and fabricators commonly enlisted to produce work in collaboration with the artist as author. A work of this period might also be confronted with legal and moral implications of ownership once it leaves the artist’s possession. In light of these factors, single works often exist—and have been shown or collected over the course of decades—in multiple forms.

With these considerations in mind, the PCI utilized the holdings of the Guggenheim’s Panza Collection, an extensive body of nearly 350 works of Minimal, Post-Minimal, and Conceptual art, and developed case studies on seven major artists: Dan Flavin, Robert Irwin, Donald Judd, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Lawrence Weiner, and Doug Wheeler. The project’s findings were based on exhaustive analyses of works by each artist, revealing previously unknown aspects of the conceptual and technical terms of their work and providing insight into the artistic practice of this period more broadly. Through this study, the Guggenheim’s PCI team has developed methodologies specific to these factors in aesthetic practice after 1960.

Object Lessons, a richly illustrated, 328-page volume, focuses on four works by key figures of 1960s Minimal and Conceptual art: Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Lawrence Weiner. Each work is presented from several vantages: an exhaustive chronological account conveys the surprisingly complicated history of the work’s realization, acquisition, ownership, and display. An overview addresses the broad practical and conceptual implications of this information for both the historical identity and the posterity of the work. A conservation narrative establishes the role of fabricators and the material and technical standards at stake in the production of the object. Together, the authors explore how a previously unaddressed history of production, ownership, and display has deeply influenced the life and legacy of these radical examples of Minimal and Conceptual art.

A separate section examines the topic of decommission, a new category of collection classification for works that are contested or compromised and are therefore no longer viable for display. Throughout, the book is copiously illustrated with photographs of the works, the exhibitions in which they appeared, and related drawings and proposals from scores of archives and other sources. Rounding out this volume are extensive excerpts of new interviews with artists and fabricators, key historical documents, and previously unpublished correspondence.

Object Lessons is published by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and authored by Francesca Esmay, Conservator; Ted Mann, Consulting Associate Curator; and Jeffrey Weiss, former Senior Curator. It includes a preface by Nancy Spector, former Artistic Director and Deputy Director; and Lena Stringari, Deputy Director and Chief Conservator, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; and additional texts by Martha Buskirk, Professor of Art History and Criticism, Montserrat College of Art; and Virginia Rutledge, art historian and attorney. The hardcover volume, priced at $55, is available in June 2021 through D.A.P. and at guggenheim.org/publications.

The Panza Collection Initiative Records and online finding aid offer a rich resource of material including:
• Transcripts, video and audio recordings, and photographs from over 70 interviews with artists and/or their assistants, associates, and fabricators, as well as other stakeholders
• Illustrated narratives for over 110 works detailing their fabrication, exhibition, and ownership histories
• Technical examination reports, many based on comparative analysis with other fabrications of a given work, where applicable
• Over 3,000 images of invaluable primary and secondary source documents, including working drawings, certificates of ownership and authenticity, and related images and documents pertaining to sales, questions of display, and multiple iterations of a single work
• Transcripts, video recordings, and images of each of the five two-day Advisory Committee meetings held throughout the study. The committee consisted of experts from diverse fields including art history, critical theory, law, curatorial practice, and conservation
• Video recordings from Object Lessons: The Panza Collection Initiative Symposium, which was held April 9–10, 2019, at the Guggenheim and included a concurrent didactic display of works by Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, Robert Morris, and Bruce Nauman

The archive features an easily navigable online collection finding aid that will allow researchers, educators, and the broader public to access the full breadth of material produced during the project. The archive is available at guggenheim.org/archives.

About the Panza Collection Initiative

The Panza Collection Initiative (PCI), launched in 2010 and funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, addresses the extensive body of nearly 350 works of Minimal, Post-Minimal, and Conceptual art acquired by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from visionary Italian collectors Giovanna and Giuseppe Panza di Biumo in 1990–92. By evaluating specific works within the collection, the PCI has developed a broader framework through which to address the long-term sustainability of variable, ephemeral, or fabrication-based artworks of this period. As part of the PCI, the Guggenheim presented Doug Wheeler: PSAD Synthetic Desert III in 2017, the first realization of a work from Wheeler’s series of light, space, and sound installations conceived in the 1960s and 1970s.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive.

About the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation was established in 1937 and is dedicated to promoting the understanding and appreciation of modern and contemporary art through exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications. The international constellation of museums includes the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; and the future Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. An architectural icon and “temple of spirit” where radical art and architecture meet, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is now among a group of eight Frank Lloyd Wright structures in the United States recently designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. To learn more about the museum and the Guggenheim’s activities around the world, visit guggenheim.org.

Object Lessons: Case Studies in Minimal Art—The Guggenheim Panza Collection Initiative. Cover image: Dan Flavin, untitled (to Henri Matisse), 1964. © 2021 Stephen Flavin/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Billy Jim, courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York.

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