Only on MAN: The director of the Dia Art Foundation, Jeffrey Weiss, has resigned.
Weiss had been at Dia for less than a year. The biggest event of Weiss’ tenure was the sale of Dia’s landmark Chelsea building for $38.55 million.
Prior to running Dia, Weiss had been the modern and contemporary curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.
Three New York museums/foundations are seeking leaders: Dia, the Guggenheim, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
UPDATE: NYTer Carol Vogel follows MAN.
Tyler Green Modern Art Notes
Archive for February, 2008
Only on MAN: The director of the Dia Art Foundation, Jeffrey Weiss, has resigned.
1.) At a time when pretty much everyone in the art world is bemoaning the near-death of arts journalism in newspapers and magazines, the Warhol Foundation’s art writers program continues to be an enormous dud. Once again, Warhol funds narrow projects that reach narrow audiences when instead the art world should be focused on replacing the outside-the-ghetto writing, journalism and criticism that can reach general-interest audiences. Here are this year’s winners. But pay more attention to the judges: No one there makes their living from writing or editing!?
2.) Judging from my email, readers seem to love the idea of museums doing more small, one- or two-gallery shows. Lots of museums could do this right out of their collections…
3.) Speaking of collections and small shows: Phillips director-to-be Dorothy Kosinski wants to make the Phillips a little more contemporary. Here’s an idea: Invite Martin Puryear to do a permanent collection installation when the Puryear retro comes to the National Gallery. I bet he’d start here.
4.) How much fun is it that the Kimbell can hang this Caravaggio and this de La Tour almost right next to each other?
5.) I really enjoyed NYTer Ken Johnson’s review of Charles Demuth at the Whitney. In an unrelated story, how bad is the Whitney’s website?!
February’s must-read is this Christopher Knight piece about LACMA, MOCA, who has what, who doesn’t have what, who needs what, and how the whole LACMA/MOCA/Broad Art Foundation situation could be simply, neatly, tidily, brilliantly, and legacy-enhancingly sorted out. (Photo credit.)
First: Knight is neither wholly nor merely imagining this scenario. (You did click, right?) Plans quite similar to the ones Knight outlines have been discussed by various actors. That doesn’t mean anything is even remotely imminent, just that Knight is getting behind a germ of an idea that is good enough to deserve a little germinating. The version I’ve heard more than once doesn’t involve a Geffen Contemporary-adjacent property the way Knight’s idea does — it involves the empty lot visible here, the parking lot that forms an “L” with Disney Hall and MOCA (in the center foreground). The mechanics of where a ‘new’ MOCA would go are less important than that MOCA gets the space it deserves. Like Knight says, MOCA is “the nation’s most prominent contemporary art museum.” Programmatically it’s the best, too.
Next: I know that the Broads and the Broad Art Foundation team have said that the Broads aren’t interested in building a museum or in a museum model. But in August, 2004 Eli Broad told the LAT that he wouldn’t be building LACMA the Piano if he didn’t intend to give it a lot of art. And he changed his mind. That’s fine, that’s his prerogative, but what’s to say he can’t (or won’t) change his mind again? As I’ve written, the Broad Art Foundation is already set up more like a museum than anything else.
In fact, TBAF is already pretty good at showing art. The current Broad Art Foundation installation, overseen by director Joanne Heyler, is terrific. The Franz Ackermann on view (to the ‘industry’ and by appointment only) is awesome. The juxtaposition of Mark Tansey and Neo Rauch in one gallery has me thinking about both artists in new ways.
One of the problems MOCA has now is that it’s the only reason to visit downtown LA during daylight hours. If TBAF and MOCA were within walking distance of each other that would change. (Better yet: Imagine a J. Paul Getty Photography Museum there too.) MOCA deserves something like this. The Broad collection is good enough to fill the Isozaki not just with one installation but in multiple installations. We can hope…
Admin: I’m back home and posting will (finally) get back to normal. That was going to start with more Francis Alys, but there are two other newsy items that will bump the next Alys post into Friday.
Yesterday evening, when the LAT report of Tom Krens’ pending departure from the Guggenheim came across the e-transom, I blinked. I’m embarrassed to say that I’d actually forgotten that Krens was still around. The Gugg has become that irrelevant.
I think we’re all familiar with the Tom Krens record. Bilbao was an architectural success, everything else failed. Bilbao opened in 1997, which means that Krens has spent 11 years pointing at one great building when someone, everyone, pointed out his repeated, multi-continental failures. A big part of the Bilbao legacy is this: It inspired Krens to chase dreams. It distracted him from New York, where the Guggenheim’s flagship New York museum has languished. When was the last time you heard anyone in New York — let alone anyone anywhere else — talk about the Guggenheim?
It’s been years since the museum had a recognizable identity. Under Krens the museum’s exhibition program swung from “Russia!” to “The Aztec Empire” to Cremaster, a mystifying program for a museum built around a collection that had little to do with pre-modern Russia or the Aztecs. Often Krens’ shows seemed more determined by the potential sponsor lineup than by curators, a shame because the Guggenheim’s often exceptional collection-driven (and based) shows regularly out-drew Krens’ fantasies.
The bottom line on Krens is this: His swashbuckling-dealmaker act grew tired years ago. His model for a museum empire was a thorough failure. The Guggenheim board belatedly realized this, finally recognizing that Krens’ continued presence was the impediment to bringing a in a high-quality director in to run the NYC museum.
The next question is: How much difference will Krens’ departure make to potential director candidates? The foundation’s board is betting that it will matter a lot. It should: The Guggenheim is still a prominent museum in New York (which is different from being a New York museum — as the museum’s tiny membership figures show, it’s been years since the museum had any real connection with its city). It has a fine collection. Its curators are still widely respected. Sure, the Gugg’s a turnaround job, but the next director will surely enjoy a post-Krensian honeymoon. We aren’t happy to see Krens go because we don’t like the Guggenheim. We’re happy to see him go because we want to see the Guggenheim succeed.
Today’s Vogelism: “The move comes three years after Mr. Krens triumphed in a him-or-me showdown with the foundation’s biggest benefactor, the Cleveland philanthropist Peter B. Lewis.” Krens triumphed? Really?!?
Today’s Rosenbaumism: “I always thought he truly believed his own hype and I know, from several conversations that we had, how convincing he could be in communicating his convictions to others.” Great. That makes Krens George W. Bush.
Related: Tom Krens: The most influential museum director in NYC.
Paul Lieberman of the LAT has the story: Thomas Krens is expected to leave the Guggenheim today, but will stick around to run the Abu Dhabi project.
When I left off yesterday, I was writing about how artists had long depicted futility myths as a way of reminding underclasses that they’d better obey their rulers, or else. Francis Alys has taken this mythological and art historical tradition and he’s tweaked it. In part because it’s been a few years since artists needed to glorify royal patrons to make a living, Alys adopts storied myths for an artist’s purpose, not a monarch’s: He has used futile labor as a metaphor for contemporary social and political realities.
Take Rehearsal 1, Alys’ 1999-2003 video that shows a red VW bug driving down a dirt road, trying to build up enough momentum going downhill to make it up the next hill. For 29 minutes and 25 seconds, the bug, for four decades a familiar, outmoded vehicle in Mexico, failing. Meanwhile musicians play on an audio track. When the musicians stop playing the car stops too, and rolls backwards down the hill. “It is a story of struggle rather than one of achievement,” Alys has said of Rehearsal 1, “an allegory in process rather than a quest for synthesis.” Titian might have said the same thing about his painting of Sisyphus.
Alys’ allegory is set (more or less) in the present, in what appears to be a poverty-stricken slum. The roads are unpaved, the buildings are modest, the colors dead browns. (It’s not apparent from the video itself, but Rehearsal 1 was shot in Tijuana.) It’s easy to see the video as a metaphor for the failure of development in the third world. Time and time again wealthy countries promise to help. Time and time again wealthy nations promise that their rising tides will lift third-world boats. But so often they fail, and countries like Mexico stay stuck in a range, just like Alys’ red bug.
When I was at the Hammer in December, just a few days before the Iowa caucuses, I also thought about the multi-national debate over immigration, particularly among the Republican combatants. I thought about how the candidates and the news media talk blandly about immigration policy, usually relying on vagaries to mask the less savory specifics: For the right-wing, ‘immigration reform’ is code for ‘keeping Mexicans out’ and ’sending Mexicans back.’
Alys’ Rehearsal 1 also serves as a metaphor for the experience of hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who have tried to illegally enter the US, have been caught and sent back, only to try again. More broadly, Rehearsal 1 is also a metaphor for the experience of many immigrants caught between two cultures: Having left one country for another, they struggle to fully belong or assimilate into their new home.
A child is to an adult what a VW bug is to a car? Probably not, but when I first saw Charles Ray’s The New Beetle (2006), a painted stainless steel sculpture, that was my first thought. The Dallas Museum of Art has just acquired the piece, by way of the Rachofsky Collection, the collection of Deedie and Rusty Rose, and through the museum’s own DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund.
Like many of Ray’s sculptures of children, this one is vaguely creepy. Maybe it’s because the life-sized four-year-old is naked. Maybe it’s because of the intensity of his gaze, his complete focus on his new toy. Maybe it’s because we can gaze at him as intently as we want — after all, he’s white-on-steel, not the real deal.
The New Beetle was one of three works in Ray’s November, 2007 Matthew Marks show, his first NYC show since 1998. Roberta Smith reviewed the installation here.
Yes, you’ve seen myths of the doomed before: Man tries to do something. Man fails. Man tries again. Man fails again. And again. And again. The cycle is metronomic, and perhaps because it is reliable and thus familiar, it has fascinated humans for thousands of years. There’s Sisyphus, who rolls a stone up a hill for perpetuity, never succeeding in reaching the hilltop. Or Leto’s would-be-rapist Tityus, who was punished by having his constantly self-renewing liver devoured by eagles and snakes. That worked so well that when it came to punishing Prometheus for giving man fire, Zeus apparently suffered a creativity brain-cramp: Zeus subjected Prometheus to a perpetually-liver-eating bird too.
And now there is Francis Alys’ red VW bug. And that stripper. And the guy pushing the ice block through Mexico City. (A still from that video is above: Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing).) Don’t forget the hundreds of workers outside Lima. All were on view in an often-terrific survey of Alys’ work, “Francis Alys: Politics of Rehearsal,” curated by Russell Ferguson at the Hammer Museum. The show closed on Feb. 10.
The exhibition revealed Alys to be working within a long tradition of artists and storytellers who have been fascinated with repetition and futility. Like many of them, Alys mixes futility with politics, resulting in a poignant examination of political systems, gender roles, power, and human resignation. But before we get to Alys, let’s go back as far as we can, to the beginning of recorded futility myths.
The myths of Sisyphus, Tityus, and Prometheus seem to have originated at least 3,000 years ago. They were stories of what would happen to mortals if they failed to obey or properly respect their supernatural betters. The message of the stories was clear: Be devout, resist hubris, know your place, stay within it. If you don’t: You will suffer punishment, eternal damnation with an extra, sadistic twist. Rulers of classical societies would have loved these myths because they served to remind their subjects to be, well, subjects.
It’s no surprise that future generations of societal leaders would think the same way about these stories. For hundreds of years rulers have commissioned artists to paint these myths as reminders to their subjects. Take for example the Spanish royal family, which commissioned Titian to paint a series of canvases depicting, Sisyphus, Tityus, and other myths of the damned. The royals installed the paintings at the royal court at Alcazar, where they would remind anyone who saw them who was running the show. (Obviously the royals didn’t much fret the substitution of ‘gods’ for ‘monarchs.’)
Several of these paintings were destroyed when Alcazar burned, but two have survived. (Today, both are at the Prado.) In one Titan shows us Sisyphus rolling a stone up a hill, in the other we see Tityus bound, unable to defend himself as an eagle snacks on his liver. Nearby a snake waits its turn. In both paintings the doomed are portrayed as muscular, capable men. The message is clear: No matter how strong, how powerful you are, you are subject to the rules of the leader. Defy them at your own risk.
Alys brings these timeless, familiar themes into the present, and gives them modern twists. Tomorrow we’ll look at how…
The installation of the Martin Puryear sculpture retrospective at MAMFW is nothing like the installation at MoMA. Whereas MoMA essentially installed the show in two large, open galleries, MAMFW has installed works in in little groupings of two or three. A few works are on their own, sitting on the Ando at the top of one of MAMFW’s ‘piers.’ There’s much more natural light in many of the MAMFW galleries too, which especially affects the works that have tar on them.
One of the things I like about seeing a show at multiple venues is it gives me a chance to revisit what I thought/wrote about a show the first time I saw it. (See below.) And yes, the near-total absence of Puryear’s non-wooden works still strikes me as a real gap in the show.
Just for fun: I dig the Michael Auping story/quote here.
Previously: Puryear at MoMA, considering perspective; Puryear and Augustus Vincent Tack. Puryear and Ellsworth Kelly. Puryear and the Getty’s That Profile, Photoshopping art history: Puryear and (possibly) Uccello. Puryear and ‘the doubles.’