Guggenheim taps Francesca Esmay for new Conservation Department role

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum appointed Francesca Esmay as the Alfred Flechtheim Director of Engagement, Conservation and Collections Care, a newly endowed position within the museum’s Conservation Department. Image courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum appointed Francesca Esmay as the Alfred Flechtheim Director of Engagement, Conservation and Collections Care, a newly endowed position within the museum’s Conservation Department. Image courtesy of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

NEW YORK — The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum announced the appointment of Francesca Esmay as the Alfred Flechtheim Director of Engagement, Conservation and Collections Care, a newly endowed position within the museum’s Conservation Department. In this new position, Esmay will collaborate with colleagues across the museum to develop educational initiatives and public programming that explore the intersections of art, technology, and science and address issues related to the preservation of modern and contemporary art.

Esmay will also oversee the newly established Mentoring Emerging Professionals in Art Conservation initiative (MEPAC), a 10-week, paid opportunity for students to work alongside leaders in the field of art conservation and collections care. This program was conceived to address the persistent lack of diversity within art conservation and to provide opportunities to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) candidates.

Participants will gain first-hand experience in conservation practice and will be exposed to a range of topics including materials analysis, hands-on treatment, conservation science, time-based media conservation, research and preventative preservation. Under the MEPAC initiative, three students per year, drawn from both the undergraduate and graduate levels, will work one-on-one with Esmay, Deputy Director of Culture and Inclusion Ty Woodfolk, and other staff within the Guggenheim’s Conservation Department and will receive mentoring and support for future pursuits in the conservation field.

Lena Stringari, Deputy Director and Andrew W. Mellon Chief Conservator, said, “The work of preserving cultural heritage enables a deeper understanding of histories, cultures, and the materials that contribute to those narratives, yet it is often invisible in museums. The establishment of this position and Francesca’s appointment will raise the visibility of this vital work as well as provide opportunities for historically underrepresented students to learn about conservation and contribute to efforts that both diversify the field and make it more relevant to a wider public.”

Esmay joined the Guggenheim in 2010 to co-lead the museum’s Panza Collection Initiative (PCI), a collaboration that fused the disciplines of art history and art conservation. During Esmay’s tenure on the PCI, she successfully led the program’s final dissemination phase, which culminated with the launch of an online digital repository of the project’s research and the release of a major publication, Object Lessons: Case Studies in Minimal Art, co-authored by Esmay, Ted Mann, and Jeffrey Weiss.

In addition to this work, Esmay oversaw the creation of an extensive website that details the genesis, methodology, and findings of the PCI and includes the proceedings of a two-day public symposium held in 2019, planned and developed by Esmay in collaboration with the Getty Conservation Institute. Esmay came to the Guggenheim from Dia Art Foundation in New York, where from 2006 to 2010 she served as the organization’s first conservator and initiated a comprehensive program for conservation and collections care. From 2001 to 2006, she worked in a similar capacity as the first conservator at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. Esmay graduated from New York University and holds a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.

This position is funded by a challenge grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and by Dr. Michael R. Hulton and Mrs. Penny R. Hulton, heirs of art collector and dealer Alfred Flechtheim.