Wednesday 12 October 2011


 As the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver nears its opening day, the press is gathering (and covering more than the sale of four works from the collection to create an endowment).

I feel like a bit of a dummy - I didn't realise that Still released so little of his work to the market; I think of him alongside Rothko and Pollock, not as someone who needs to be hoisted higher in the firmament (maybe I can thank my lecturers for that). Dean Sobel, the museum's director, makes this explicit in a Wall Street Journal interview:

"We are going head to head with Rothko, Pollock, de Kooning and Newman," he says. "The goal for us is to put Still back in, to show the greatness of him and that he was the great innovator of the movement. He creates Abstract Expressionism before all the others."

The WSJ makes an interesting point about the challenges of opening a single-artist museum:

Creating a constituency for a one-artist museum can be tricky even when, like Georgia O'Keeffe or Andy Warhol, that artist is widely known (and loved) and has a local base (Santa Fe, N.M., and Pittsburgh, respectively). Still, a loner who was born in North Dakota in 1904 and died in Maryland in 1980, with several stops in between, had decreed that his life's work should go to any city that would erect a museum solely for his works—and nothing else, ever. Denver just happened to win the competition.

Fast Company's Design blog makes the same point from an architectural angle:

Museums for single artists are tricky. They’re monuments to figures who loom larger than life and, as a result, they can skew all-too-easily toward cliche or, worse, outright cartoon. But architect Brad Cloepfil, of Portland-based Allied Works Architecture, was the right man for the job here. His best designs, like the low-slung Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis and the forthcoming National Music Centre in Calgary, are tough on the outside, sweet on the inside, with big, bold gestures and thoughtful floorplans. Plus, he’s some kind of genius with light, feeding sun indoors through slits and crevices and peepholes in the architecture, like little blasts of heaven.

These are all interesting things to think about in light of the ongoing fundraising for the Len Lye Centre. I can only hope that some rubber pants turn up in the archives.

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