The Doerner Institut, mostly invisible to the eyes of the public, carries out its dedicated tasks of restoration in the middle of Munich’s ‘Kunstareal’ (art and museum district). The Institute has been integrated into the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Paintings Collections) since 1946 and cares for a very substantial part of the Pinakothek Museums in Bavaria. Set up in 1937 as the ‘Reichsinstitut für Maltechnik’ (‘Reich Institute of Painting Technology’), the Doerner Institut has been, from the outset, committed to the investigation of artistic techniques and materials. In addition it is focussed on the development of physical and chemical methods of examining the artistic and cultural heritage. The founder of the institute, Max Doerner, an expert in painting materials and professor at the city’s Academy of Fine Arts, was always aware that the close interrelationship of studies into painting techniques with scientific research and art history makes an important contribution to the understanding and preservation of works of art. Having outgrown its early beginnings, the Doerner Institut now employs between 50 and 60 staff: conservator-restorers and conservation-scientists, along with specialists in museum and exhibition technology, all of whom work closely together.
The Doerner Institut’s core tasks are directly focussed on the long-term preservation of the art and cultural heritage with which we have been entrusted: conservation and restoration, art-technological research, and museum and exhibition technology. Preventive conservation is of central importance: ideal and protective room / building environments, the control of light, room climate and pollutants, a sophisticated security concept and numerous other factors contribute importantly to the minimization of risks. Based on this concept, the Doerner Institut provides specialist advice and services to the Pinakothek Museums in Bavaria.
The expressiveness and explanatory power of works of art often derive not least from their specific materials and individual production techniques. In the context of its own projects, the Doerner Institut examines materials and techniques alike, often in co-operation with other institutions at home and abroad. The institute’s well-equipped laboratories have at its disposal the latest imaging techniques as well as methods of physical and chemical analysis. The results and technological findings of the work of the Institute are published either in scientific catalogues or in the Institute’s own publications. The knowledge gained not only enhances the understanding of European masterpieces, but also enables forgeries to be uncovered. In this latter field, the Doerner Institut with its advisory and expert capacity acts in disputed cases, as a clearing house on behalf of the art trade, the courts, and private individuals.
In spite of all these prevention measures, unstable or aesthetically dissatisfying states of preservation, acute damage, or exhibition projects constantly make it necessary or desirable to undertake conservation or restoration work on individual items from the holdings of the Bavarian State Paintings Collections. The Doerner Institut has traditionally taken a conservative approach in this field: ‘as little as possible, as much as necessary’. Restoration is only then carried out on the basis of art-technological findings and a preliminary examination of the work in question. The institute’s in-house conservator-restorers, along with external specialists, therefore contribute in a targeted fashion to the long-term preservation of the valuable holdings entrusted to them. All the repositories, along with the elaborate supervision of the setting-up and dismantling of exhibitions, are part of the responsibilities of the Doerner Institut: its museum and exhibition technicians, together with the conservator-restorers, organize and stage the numerous exhibitions in the Alte Pinakothek, the Neue Pinakothek, the Pinakothek der Moderne, the Sammlung Schack, the Museum Brandhorst, as well as the presentations in the thirteen branch galleries across Bavaria.
On the basis of a co-operation agreement, the Doerner Institut works closely together with the course on ‘Restoration, Art technology and Conservation science’ offered by Munich’s Technical University. Since 1998 the Institute has been closely involved in the teaching programme, staff of the institute has also been supervising semester papers, bachelor and master theses, and doctoral dissertations. Interns, along with others holding grants from a number of foundations, supplement their training with a spell at the Doerner Institut. The broad spectrum of the institute’s activities is reflected not only in extensive archives on art-technological questions, X-ray and infrared photographs, restoration documentations, a rich collection of artists’ materials, artists’ bequests, and other physical items, but also in exhibitions with an art-technological focus, which never cease to arouse the interest of the broad public.