Antoine Wilmering, Getty Foundation

TITLE: Senior Program Officer

FUNDING AREAS: Access to art collections, art history, art conservation

CONTACT: awilmering@getty.edu, 310-440-7320

IP TAKE: Wilmering keeps a low profile for someone in such a high philanthropic position. You won’t find him on Twitter, or see his name splashed across art blogs and journals. 

PROFILE: Antoine M.Wilmering comes from an esteemed old breed of arts conservators—the kind who honed their skills in years of meticulous studio practice. It seems he is too busy rolling up his sleeves, going on site visits, and lovingly restoring overlooked cultural artifacts to be seen giving too many presentations or speaking to the press.

Wilmering perfected his craft at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he spent 12 years in Objects Conservation. He is an expert—perhaps the expert—on furniture and wooden objects conservation, serving as an educator and consulting in this arena for institutions worldwide. His post as Senior Program Officer at the Getty Foundation allows him to pioneer special international conservation efforts like MOSAIKON and the Panel Paintings Initiative.

While at the Met, Wilmering led the team that reinstalled the Gubbio studiolo. That mouthful was the private 15th century study of Federico da Montefeltro, and is now a famous work of Italian Renaissance art. The walls of the study are elaborate intarsia panels—an intricate wood inlay technique that is right up Wilmering's alley. The history, materials, and techniques of intarsia represent just one corner of his vast knowledge and fine woodworking and restoration skills. Multiple publications from this and other Met conservation projects bear witness to his experience.

Wilmering came to the Getty after a four-year stint teaching at Tainan National University of the Arts in Taiwan. While there he studied the long-term effects of airborne fungi on museum objects in galleries and display windows in southern Taiwan. He joined both the Getty Trust and the Getty Foundation as a Program Officer in 2004. In his Los Angeles post, he continues to focus on objects conservation—a passion that apparently won't be squelched.

One of his passion projects at the Getty is MOSAIKON, a consortium of centers and committees working "to develop innovative models for mosaics preservation around the Mediterranean." Its central goal is to train and equip local technicians to properly care for mosaics using sustainable materials. Wilmering is also at the helm of the Panel Paintings Initiative, which unites the Getty Foundation, Museum, and Conservation Institute to train conservators to restore and stabilize historic multi-panel pieces like the Ghent Altarpiece. Wilmering says it is an attempt to "[revive] the old workshop model… in which a master passes on his or her expertise to apprentices." He speaks about the Panel Paintings Initiative in-depth in this video press statement.

The Getty Foundation's previous conservation initiatives have focused on architectural conservation and treatment or restoration of monuments. Philadelphia's Fairmount Park Association received funding to reinstall and care for the renowned Louise Nevelson sculpture, Atmosphere and Environment XII. Swiss architect Le Corbusier's La Maison Blanche was restored through a Getty grant, as was a 16th century Rajput-Mughal palace complex in Jodhpur, India. The Getty Foundation also completed a three-year cycle of grants to preserve L.A.'s own historic and cultural sites.

Currently, grantmaking in the area of conservation prioritizes projects that "promote the interdisciplinary practice of conservation… and foster collaboration between conservators, art historians, conservations scientists, and other heritage professionals." They are looking to train and support a new generation of conservators that are at least as skilled as Wilmering. Since 2009, all conservation grants have fallen under the MOSAIKON or Panel Paintings Initiative umbrellas, and were primarily awarded to European institutions. Historically, the focus of grantmaking has been much broader, and the Getty will surely shift initiatives in due time.