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Posts Tagged ‘curator’

Art: Jacobo Bassano.
Museum security officer Joan Smith chose a painting called “The Animals Entering Noah’s Ark” for a special staff-curated exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Last fall, my husband and I took Minnesota visitors to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. The museum’s amazing landscaping and art were not the only treats. One gallery’s security guard was deeply enthusiastic about the art, especially the pieces in his room that had been stolen, and the background he provided really enriched our experience.

That’s why today’s post about giving museum security guards a chance to curate an exhibit makes so much sense to me.

Cathy Free writes at the Washington Post, “Security officer Ricardo Castro spends most days on his feet at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where he answers a lot of questions. …

“ ‘If you’re a guard, you hear it all,’ said Castro, who has worked for the museum’s security team for three years. ‘I enjoy the interaction — especially when you can tell that people are really moved by something hanging on the wall,’ he said.

“Now Castro is prepared for questions of a different kind when an exhibit he curated with 16 other guards opens at the museum March 27. … Castro’s selections, three objects by unidentified artists from Indigenous cultures, reflect his desire to see more works in the museum that spotlight early cultures, including his own Puerto Rican ancestry, he said. …

“The idea to have security guards take a turn at selecting pieces for an exhibition came about in February 2020 when Baltimore Museum of Art trustee Amy Elias went to dinner with the museum’s chief curator, Asma Naeem.

“ ‘We were talking about ways to engage with the security guards, who spend more time with the art than anyone. … ‘I thought, “Wouldn’t it be interesting to hear from the guards about which pieces of art were the most meaningful to them?” ‘ [Elias] said. …

“She and Naeem said they thought about the possibilities for a while, then put out a memo last year to the museum’s 45 security guards: Would any of them be interested in developing an exhibition based on their personal selections from the museum’s vast collection? They would be paid for their time as guest curators in addition to their regular hourly wage.

“ ‘For the past few years, the Baltimore Museum of Art has tried to bring in new voices that haven’t been heard before,’ Naeem said.

“ ‘Our guards are always looking at the art and listening to people as they talk about the art,’ she said. ‘People enjoy talking to them, and their education is really a “hands on” gallery experience. We wanted to see things from their perspective.’ …

“The 17 guards who signed up attended Zoom meetings for a year to learn how to put on an exhibition, from framing artworks and writing description labels for the public to making sure that each piece has correct lighting, Naaem said.

“ ‘We asked them each to select up to three objects, and they then did a deep dive with our librarian to research each one,’ she said. …

“Several guards chose social justice and change as a theme for their selections, she added, while others chose pieces to match their experiences of rotating each day between the museum’s galleries.

“Alex Lei chose Winslow Homer’s ‘Waiting for an Answer'(1872), because ‘it’s strangely reflective of the experience of being a guard — a job mostly made up of waiting,’ he said.

“Ben Bjork said he selected Jeremy Alden’s ’50 Dozen’ (2005/2008) — a chair made entirely of pencils — because he sometimes fantasizes about sitting down when he is tired.

“Sara Ruark chose two works, including Karel Appel’s ‘A World in Darkness'(1962), because she wanted to convey the current uncertainty in the world, she said. …

“’These are disconcerting times’ … she added. ‘There are people pushing for positive change, but somehow we just keep winding back in time.’

“Alex Dicken, a security guard for two years who recently moved to the museum’s visitor services team, said he chose Max Ernst’s ‘Earthquake, Late Afternoon'(1948), because he was struck by how the painting appears serene and detached from the crisis it depicts. …

” ‘Working as a security officer involves so much more than just standing in a gallery,’ said Dicken, 24. “When you have repeated exposure to the artwork, you learn a lot about it. I hope I was able to pass that along to the people who visit.’

“Ricardo Castro said he feels the same way. ‘When I first came here as a guard, I thought it would just be something to do to pay my bills,’ he said. ‘But I really came to love it, especially when I’d see how joyful people were when they looked at the art.’ “

Don’t you wonder how the surprise opportunity to act as a curator will affect these people’s lives going forward? You have until July 10 to see the show.

More at the Post, here. The Denver Channel version of the story has no firewall.

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Photo: Dan Cameron.
Chumono, Muelle de Alma (2005), site specific art installation near Cucao, Chiloé, Chile.

Today’s article is the first in a Hyperallergic series about a fellowship for curators that one recipient used for a project in Chile. Blogger Rebecca may know the part of Chile that curator Dan Cameron talks about.

He writes at Hyperallergic, “While preparing this project one day, I was perusing Chilean regional news outlets for details about the December 2021 fire that damaged or destroyed a number of houses in Castro, the capital of the Isla Grande de Chiloé, when I noticed that multiple sources referred to the island as a ‘tourist’ destination.

“Maybe it’s the just intellectual vanity that goes with being the sort of curator who leaves New York City to come to a remote corner of South America, but it felt weirdly like a slap in the face to see this little-known (outside of Chile) place that I’d been steadfastly exploring for a future curatorial project seemingly transformed by a single word into a locale that would be for, well, tourists. In my mind it didn’t matter that Chiloé’s famed palafito stilt houses and 17th- and 18th-century wooden churches attract visitors worldwide, or that the more secluded corners of Chiloé I’d scouted on previous trips had everything a moderately resourceful traveler would need for a splendid visit. …

“My flash of pique at reading Chiloé so described is curiously linked to my personal history with Chile, which I first visited exactly 30 years ago. … I’ve returned consistently to Chile over the years, precisely because I thought I wouldn’t otherwise get to know it. This was summarized by the word that the Santiago-based artist Eugenio Dittborn would employ five years later as his title for a survey exhibition I curated of his signature pinturas aeropostales (airmail paintings) at the New Museum: Remota.

In 1992 I hardly knew anybody who possessed firsthand information about Chile, and that made it irresistible.

“During our initial meeting at his studio in Santiago, I shared with Dittborn my very ambitious itinerary, which included Santiago, Valparaiso, Easter Island, and the northern cities of Iquique and Antofagasta. … Dittborn responded that in the future, I should visit the southernmost art museum in the world, in Castro [in Chiloé], and perhaps consider organizing an exhibition there. …

“I finally made it to Chiloé in 2015 with the artist Gianfranco Foschino. … It helped that Gianfranco was personally enthusiastic about organizing a contemporary art exhibition in Chiloé, but what became less clear once we’d made our initial reconnaissance of the island was whether or not MAM Chiloé was the ideal venue for a project that would function largely as a platform for local artists. After spending time with and talking to various artists living on the island, it seemed that, for most, the museum functioned as a venue for artists based in Santiago. If I wanted to see where local artists showed, I’d need to dig a little deeper into the patchwork of regional museums, municipal libraries, gallery-cafés, and community centers, which tended to be scattered all over Chiloé, and on the nearby islands of Quinchao and Lemuy.

“My last time in Chiloé, in November 2019 … I started envisioning Alrededores more as a long-term curatorial endeavor, where instead of artworks appearing for one season and vanishing, some might require years even to come to fruition. That would place the project closer in spirit to the niche that the Chilote artist Chumono opened up with his site-specific Muelle del Alma (‘Pier of the Soul’), which since its 2005 construction has become emblematic of art and nature co-existing on mutually beneficial terms. Thousands of visitors each year park their cars near the village of Cucao and hike nearly three miles through verdant hills and pastures to the westernmost edge of the island.

“There, according to Chiloé folklore, the boatman Tempilcahue will someday ferry them to the afterlife; fittingly, Chumono’s wooden ramp visually beckons visitors up into the sky and out over the Pacific Ocean. …

“The most exciting part of my plan was the possibility that Chiloé’s artists might end up with an international context for their work, without rupturing the sociocultural framework of their lives.

“The art was already there — I had already been surprised by its depth, and it was simply a matter of introducing the world to it. Even if cultural tourism, broadly speaking, was on a temporary hiatus as new waves of COVID spread worldwide, other avenues could bring the public to the art of Guillermo Grez or Anelys Wolf, or to the sole-proprietor storefront Museum of the Accordion in Chonchi.

“The latter, a modest but beloved establishment, preserves an integral part of the musical legacy left through centuries of ships — on which the accordion was that rare instrument capable of surviving adverse conditions — rounding Tierra del Fuego to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, which slowed to a crawl after the 1914 opening of the Panama Canal. Part of the original Alrededores concept had been to move the museum’s collection — acquired long ago from sailors who left their accordions for repair and never returned — temporarily to MAM Chiloé, while putting some TLC into the museum’s display and conservation in Chonchi, where exhibits are typically set out on folding tables with hand-written labels.

“This month I’m returning to Chiloé for the fifth time in eight years … in pursuit of something that compels me to return over and over again, and to continue dreaming of a truly marvelous future art exhibition.”

More at Hyperallergic, here, where you can click through the curator’s updates. No firewall, nice pictures.

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The Barnes Collection is a quirky museum that is now located in Philadelphia. The eccentric art collector required all his art to be displayed a particular way. Which is perhaps why two Cézannes hidden behind other works weren’t uncovered before now.

Writes Randy Kennedy in the NY Times, “In 1921, the wily art collector Albert C. Barnes wrote to Paris to his friend and fellow collector Leo Stein, who was in dire need of money and had deputized Barnes to sell some of his holdings in the United States. They included five watercolor landscapes by Paul Cézanne, but Barnes reported that he had failed to find ‘anybody who seems to think they are sufficiently important to want to own them.’

“It was pure mercantile flimflam. Barnes turned around and bought the watercolors for himself, at $100 each, installing them permanently in his personal museum near [Philadelphia]. Now it turns out that Barnes got a better deal than even he had thought: A conservation treatment of the watercolors has revealed two previously unknown Cézanne works — a graphite drawing and a watercolor with graphite — on the verso (the reverse side) of two of the watercolors.

“Hidden beneath brown paper backing, the newly discovered pieces are unfinished, but they have sent tremors through the world of Cézanne scholarship, where additions to his body of work are exceedingly rare and where even the resurfacing of long-unseen pieces can be huge news. …

” ‘These are a perfect example of how much we still don’t know about this collection,’ said Martha Lucy, a consulting curator at the Barnes and an expert on its Renoir and Cézanne holdings. ‘To add new work to Cézanne’s oeuvre is incredible.’ “

More here.

Art: “New” Cézanne at the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia

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Whatever works.

Curator Scott Stulen pays attention to what attracts people. At the avant garde Walker Museum in Minneapolis, he actually tapped the popularity of cat videos — and created a mini sensation.

Now at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Stulen is curator of the visitor experience.

Writes David Lindquist at the Indy Star, “Newly hired as the first-ever curator of audience experiences and performance at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Stulen’s assignment is to attract people to the museum’s galleries as well as 100 Acres art and nature park, Tobias Theater, outdoor amphitheater and Lilly House and gardens.

“He comes from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where his track record includes the surprise success of the Internet Cat Video Festival, which brought 10,000 people together in a field in 2012 and then 11,000 paying customers at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair. …

“The cat video festival debuted at Open Field, a space adjacent to the Walker where Stulen co-developed projects with the museum, independent artists and the public.

“ ‘We had the ability to do more experimental programs that didn’t make as much sense inside the museum, and had a lot more creative freedom,’ he said.” More here.

2013 Internet Cat Video Festival at the Minnesota State Fair.

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