Saturday 28 April 2018

Reading list, 28 April 2018

Ioana Gordon-Smith for Pantograph Punch: From the Margins to the Mainstream: Pacific Sisters at Te Papa.

I'm fascinated by this model: a NYC dealer gallery, Postmasters Gallery, has launched a Patreon programme to build a kind of supporters club, to sit alongside actual buyers. Covered on (the very good) The Gray Market newsletter and on Artnet News.

Nina Simon has released the full text of her book The Art of Relevance online.

Simon Gennard's beautiful and insightful essay, accompanying his exhibition Sleeping Arrangements, now on at The Dowse. The exhibition bring together the work of four artists (Malcolm Harrison, Grant Lingard, Zac Langdon-Pole and Micheal McCabe) from three different generations, using the pivotal moment of the early years of the AIDS crisis in New Zealand at the start of the 1990s as a context for exploring their work.

I am FASCINATED by LACMA's Collectors Committee Weekend, a fundraising extravaganza in which they raise acquisition funds. I think it should be made into a reality tv show.

Shelly Bernstein writes about how the Barnes Foundation has rewritten visitor guides, visitors rules and host training to manage safe distances in their (small, stuffed-to-the-gills-with-extraordinary-objects) galleries.
It is hard to pick favorites in this exhibition which dishes out so many levels of weirdness my head starts to spin. There are serious book illustrations done for Sinclair Lewis, and a corncob chandelier for a hotel dining room. There is elegant silver work paired with painted metal machine parts wired up as eccentric flowers in clay pots. And learning details from the catalog about his life, like the tale of him attending a costume party dressed as an angel with wings, a pink flannel nightie and a halo, makes a definitive understanding of this work fruitless.
A fun and provocative review of Grant Wood: American Gothic and Other Fables at the Whitney Museum by Dennis Kardon for Hyperallergic.

Sunday 22 April 2018

Reading list, 22 April 2018

“The Turner Prize changed all sorts of things,” she said. “Now, if I say I want something, people try and do it for me, and that’s never happened to me in the whole of my life.”
Hettie Judah on Lubaina Himid: She Won the Turner Prize. Now She’s Using Her Clout to Help Others.

This has been passed around incessantly (and deservedly) but I'm dropping it in here for future references: Junot Díaz's The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma.

Read anything Kyle Chayka writes: Style Is an Algorithm.

I honestly can't tell if the profession will learn from this, or beat its collective head against its collective desk (probably both, to be fair): What Is a ‘Narrative Art Museum’? 6 Things to Expect From George Lucas’s New LA Museum.

This sounds like sheer horror to me, but I am a known kill-joy: The Post-Millennial Generation Is Here … and they're working at the Museum of Ice Cream. You might as well pair that with this recent Hyperallergic piece by Mitchell Kuga, How Corporations Harness — and Hijack — the Idea of the Museum. And seeing as we're on the topic, from the Culture™ newsletter: Must the museum be defended from branded content?
Honestly, I don’t expect my work to survive 100 years. Let it perish if it’s perishable. It’s like an emotion. Can you preserve an emotion for 100 years?
Palette cleanser: a recent interview with Sheila Hicks by Anicka Yi.

Friday 20 April 2018

Art News New Zealand, Autumn 2018

Women getting fired

"The Museum World Is Having An Identity Crisis, And Firing Powerful Women Won’t Help", read a March 19 headline on the Huffington Post website. The article recapped three high profile layoffs of women from leadership positions in art museums: Queens Museum director Laura Raicovich, who resigned in January after what she described as "political differences" with the museum's board; Musée d’Art Contemporain director María Inés Rodríguez, let go on the International Women's Day because her programme was "too demanding"; and Helen Molesworth, chief curator at Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), who according to the museum's press statement chose to step down "due to creative differences" - a piece of phrasing refuted by artist and MOCA board member Catherine Opie, who told Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight that the curator had in fact been fired by director Philippe Vergne for "undermining the museum".

All three departures have been covered by the international art press, but Molesworth's case has received special attention, perhaps due to the nature of the institution. Opened in 1979, MOCA is LA's only artist-founded museum, and has a strong history of progressive and groundbreaking shows. It also has a recent history of turmoil, especially during the divisive directorship of Jeffrey Deitch. A relatively small institution, the museum punches well above its weight in terms of influence.

Seeking answers for the surprise announcement, some reports focused on rumours of Molesworth driving out long-serving staff. Others speculated that Vergne's decision to curate several exhibitions of high profile white male artists' work defied Molesworth's programming efforts. But ultimately, as Julia Halperin wrote on Artnet News, "Molesworth’s personal priorities, progressive politics, and constitutional aversion to flattering donors put her on a collision course with the museum’s director and board."

Since the announcement, extracts from earlier interviews given by Molesworth have circulated widely on social media, including this from a 2016 interview with The Art Newspaper:

"Most museums still maintain a commitment to an idea of the best, or quality, or genius. And I’m not saying I don’t agree with those as values. But I think those values have been created over hundreds of years to favour white men. One of the things you have to say as a curator is “We are not going to present the value that already exists; we are going to do the work to create value around these woman artists and artists of colour that would just come ‘naturally’ to the white male artist.”

Molesworth's departure comes at a time when the equity of museums' exhibition programming and acquisitions is closely scrutinised. In a recent article for ArtForum on the work of Simone Leigh, Molesworth wrote:

"The museum, the Western institution I have dedicated my life to, with its familiar humanist offerings of knowledge and patrimony in the name of empathy and education, is one of the greatest holdouts of the colonialist enterprise. Its fantasies of possession and edification grow more and more wearisome as the years go by. ... I confess that more days than not I find myself wondering whether the whole damn project of collecting, displaying, and interpreting culture might just be unredeemable."

A widely identified point of contention was Molesworth's refusal to feign interest in the collections and priorities of board members and supporters if they did not match her priorities. In another article for Artnet News,  Felix Salmon analysed auction data for artists featured in MOCA solo shows over the past 15 years. Positing that donor management is one of the chief curator's primary responsibilities, Salmon showed that the number of shows devoted to top-tier market figures had dropped precipitously during Molesworth's tenure. Molesworth, Salmon states, was "sending a very clear message to the kind of collectors who love to bask in the reflected glory of their Ruschas and Rauschenbergs and Murakamis: Your kind of artists aren’t going to get big solo shows at MOCA any more." He concludes: "Very few boards of trustees would be happy putting their support behind such a message; MOCA’s clearly weren’t."

In March I attended the Australian Public Galleries Summit in Sydney. On a panel of artists invited to describe about what galleries would look like if artists ran them, Deborah Kelly noted that secure public funding would be in place, which would eliminate the unsustainable business models of appealing to fickle billionaires for financial security. It was a tongue-in-cheek comment, but it reminded me of the gratitude I feel for working in an art world that remains largely publicly funded, and where situations such as those Molesworth faced at MOCA are relatively rare. At the same time, this year the Ministry for Culture and Heritage has about 50 appointments to make to the boards of organisations it oversees. In a period of rapid social change, the need for board members to be self-aware and socially informed - one might even say "woke" - has never been stronger; for the good of our organisations, and for boards' own self-respect.

Saturday 7 April 2018

Reading list, 7 April 2018

In light of Helen Molesworth's abrupt departure from LA MOCA, apparently because of tension between her programming priorities and those of the museum, her article Art Is Medicine on Simone Leigh's work for the February issue of ArtForum makes interesting reading:
To be situated outside of the main event, to be refused entry, to be placed in a position of radical unknowing—these are deeply interesting aspects of Leigh’s work for me as a white woman. And perhaps more to the point, this is the position from which I must engage with the work, and it is demonstrably different from the place I typically occupy, marked as it is by my status as insider, learned, knowledgeable, comfortable. For centuries, all of culture’s agents—its makers, benefactors, and audiences—have been presumed to be white men, and for centuries, Leigh’s primary audience, black women, were denied a place in this hegemonic structure. This was not a victimless crime. There are ramifications. And one of them, Leigh suggests, is a profound need for intimacy and privacy, for secrecy, for going underground.
Grim: Inquiry launched into Canberra's museums, galleries after funding, staff cuts

Grimmer: V&A opens dialogue on looted Ethiopian treasures. For god's sake, just send them home.

Sure, why not: Picture Yourself at the Museum of Selfies

The writer's method: Anne Helen Petersen's How I wrote about the Nashville Bachelorettes (she is so worth following on Tiny Letter)