AAMD’s next president will be Kaywin Feldman, the director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. She will succeed Clark Art Institute director Michael Conforti. Feldman has been the MIA’s director since Jan. 1, 2008. Previously she was director of the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art and the now-defunct Fresno (Calif.) Metropolitan Museum of Art, History & Science. [UPDATE: AAMD notes that Feldman has been “nominated” with formal election to come in Indianapolis.]
Feldman takes over AAMD’s presidency at a time when the association has been notable mostly for its failure to address embarrassing and improper practices in the field. So-called ‘fluff shows,’ in which art museums use tax-exempt resources to promote private individuals and their art collections instead of promoting curatorial and scholarly expertise and independence, have proliferated in recent years — at both major museums such as the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at large local museums, such as New York’s New Museum for Contemporary Art. In a January open letter, Conforti emphatically defended AAMD’s failure to act on the issue.
The ‘fluffing’ practice has become so pronounced that the New York Times devoted a front-page story to the problem last winter. Fluffing-related embarrassments to the field expanded recently at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. where the Corcoran recently agreed to provide a fluff show to Don and Mera Rubell just before selling a a significant Washington property to a group that includes the Rubells.
In recent years AAMD has too-often failed to act as museum directors have made mincemeat of its own guidelines. For example, last year the organization accepted the Denver Art Museum’s 2008 ‘partial deaccessioning’ of a painting to a donor, a donor whose company has a for-profit exhibition opening at the museum this summer. The shrug at Denver came even as AAMD claimed its stance against improper deaccessioning was strong.
In the last two years AAMD has failed to address the impropriety of its members handing over ‘primary mission spaces’ — the galleries that are at the heart of museums’ missions — to commercial entities for products such as AEG’s ‘King Tut’ shows. AAMD also failed to act as the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego violated AAMD guidelines by becoming effectively the third museum to rent art to a Las Vegas casino. (The Phillips Collection and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts preceded MCASD.)
Among AAMD’s recent successes is the establishment of the AAMD Object Registry, a tool intended to provide information on new acquisitions of archaeological material and works of ancient art and on the resolution of claims for Nazi-era cultural objects. The association also took a strong stance against a proposed tax on museum admissions in Pennsylvania.