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Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Appoints Two Leading Figures in Art Conservation

David Bomford, formerly of the National Gallery, London, and the Getty Museum, named Director of Conservation

Zahira Véliz, longtime independent conservator and art historian working with international collections including the Museo Nacional del Prado and Britain’s National Trust, named Senior Paintings Conservator

MFAH Director Gary Tinterow today announced the appointments of David Bomford and Zahira (Soni) Véliz to key conservation positions at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Bomford has been appointed Director of Conservation, responsible for establishing conservation priorities in the care of the collections of the MFAH and its two house museums, Bayou Bend and Rienzi, in addition to conservation research and scholarship on the museum’s works of art.

Véliz has been appointed Senior Paintings Conservator, responsible for the care of the paintings collections of the MFAH and the two house museums, and for initiating research and scholarship related to those collections.

Both will also work closely with Tinterow and senior conservators of the MFAH to prepare the Conservation Department for new and consolidated facilities within the redevelopment of the MFAH campus.

“I am thrilled that David Bomford and Soni Véliz will join the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,” commented Tinterow. “I have known and admired both for many years.

“David has spent most of his career working with what is widely considered the best comprehensive collection of Old Master paintings in the world, at the National Gallery in London, and while there his Art in the Making exhibitions illuminated the complexities of art conservation and technical art history for a broad public. His tenure at the Getty Museum was marked by substantial contributions to the field, which will no doubt continue as he works in Houston.

“Over her distinguished career, Soni has brought to light countless paintings long dulled by time,” Tinterow continued. “She worked with the legendary restorer John Brealey, both at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and at the Prado during his historically important tenure in Madrid. She has also done significant work with the unparalleled British collections of the National Trust, in particular those at Knole and Petworth, two of the greatest country houses in England. As a publishing art historian as well as a conservator, Soni will bring new perspectives to our practice at the MFAH. On the eve of the upcoming major exhibition Portrait of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado, I am pleased to welcome on board such a distinguished scholar of Spanish painting.”

About David Bomford

David Bomford has been a distinguished figure in conservation for 40 years, as senior restorer at the National Gallery, London, and as secretary general of the International Institute for Conservation. During his career at the National Gallery, he worked with many of the great masterworks of Western art, including Vincent van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Edouard Manet’s The Execution of Maximilian, Peter Paul Rubens’ Samson and Delilah and numerous Rembrandts, including Ecce Homo. Bomford has also served on advisory committees for restoration projects in The Netherlands, including for Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Bomford has been a member of the Rembrandt advisory committees of the Statens Museum, Copenhagen, and the Louvre. Most recently, from 2007 to 2010, Bomford was associate director for collections at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and served as acting director of the Getty Museum from 2010 to 2012.

Bomford has published extensively since the mid-1970s and has taught and lectured widely, including at the University of Oxford, where he was the only conservator ever to have been appointed Slade Professor of Fine Art; the Vitae Foundation and Art Museum in São Paulo; the Getty Museum; and many other institutions worldwide. He received a bachelor’s degree in pure chemistry and a master’s degree in organometallic chemistry from the University of Sussex, UK.

About Zahira Véliz

Based in London and Madrid, for the last 30 years Zahira (Soni) Véliz has worked as an independent restorer and curator for a number of the world’s leading museums and institutions, including the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid; the National Trust, England; and the Royal Foundation of Toledo, Spain. In the mid-1980s Véliz worked at the side of conservator John Brealey when he was acting head of the conservation studio at the Prado; and for the Cathedral of Toledo, Véliz and Brealey restored El Greco’s great El Espolio (The Disrobing of Christ). In addition to having directed international teams on-site at Spanish cultural monuments throughout central Spain, she has also served as restorer for a number of major private collections.

Véliz has written extensively on art conservation, technical art history and 17th-century Spanish paintings and drawings, most recently the scholarly catalogue of Spanish drawings in the Courtauld Gallery, London. She has taught at the Courtauld Institute of Art and University College in London and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and she has lectured internationally. She received a bachelor’s degree in art history from the University of Florida; a master’s degree in art history and diploma in art conservation from Oberlin College in Ohio; and a PhD in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Bomford and Véliz, who are married, will relocate from London to Houston in October.

About the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Established in 1900, the MFAH is the largest art museum in the region. The museum’s main campus is located in the heart of Houston’s Museum District and comprises the Audrey Jones Beck Building, designed by Rafael Moneo and opened in 2000; the Caroline Wiess Law Building, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and opened in 1958, with an extension completed in 1974; the Glassell School of Art; and the Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden, designed by Isamu Noguchi and opened in 1986. The Beck and Law buildings are connected underground by the Wilson Tunnel, which features James Turrell’s iconic installation The Light Inside. Additional spaces include a repertory cinema, two significant libraries, public archives and a conservation and storage facility. Nearby, two remarkable house museums—Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens, and Rienzi—present collections of American and European decorative arts.

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