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Senior conservation scientist Narayan Khandekar has been named the new director of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at the Harvard Art Museums. He replaces Henry Lie, who retired this past December.
Khandekar, who first came to the Harvard Art Museums in 2001, brings a scientific background to the position. His self-proclaimed “circuitous” art conservation career began with a Ph.D. in organic chemistry and frequent trips to art galleries.
“I ended up wanting to find a way to bring art and chemistry together,” Khandekar said. “It was about halfway through my Ph.D. that I was really like, ‘This is what I want to do.’ ”
Khandekar said he is currently most excited about his work on a project featuring Australian Aboriginal bark paintings.
“It's something that has not been done before,” he said. “This is new work, so it is very exciting to be doing something for the first time."
Khandekar also hopes to expose Harvard affiliates to new perspectives on art appreciation.
“We want to make people aware of there being more than one way to look at a work of art, that art history provides one way, that understanding the process of making it a work of art and understanding the materials is another way,” he said.
Prior to joining the Harvard Art Museums, Khandekar worked at the Getty Conservation Institute, the Ian Potter Art Conservation Centre at the University of Melbourne, and the Fitzwilliam Museum at the University of Cambridge. He holds a postgraduate diploma in the conservation of easel paintings from the Courtauld Institute of Art in addition to his organic chemistry degree from the University of Melbourne.
Thomas W. Lentz, the director of the Harvard Art Museums, said in a press release that Khandekar’s role at the intersection of art and science makes him a promising director.
“With his institutional experience, deep scientific knowledge, intellectual curiosity, and naturally collaborative spirit, Narayan is the perfect choice to lead the Straus Center into its next chapter,” Lentz said.
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