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Posts about Museums

Walker Art Center names two new curators

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: February 6, 2014 - 4:09 PM

Fionn Meade @ Guillermo Riveros

Walker Art Center has hired two new curators including a Senior Curator of Cross-Disciplinary Platforms, a new post designed to reflect the center's focus on artists who work in many fields ranging from film, video and music to dance and such stationary visual arts as painting, printmaking or photography. That post will be filled by Fionn Meade starting May 5.

Meade is presently a curator, writer and faculty member at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and Columbia University in New York City. His expertise is in film, performance and museum practice. He will also be Interim Head of the Walker's Visual Arts Department while a search continues for someone to replace Chief Curator Darsie Alexander who is leaving to become executive director of the Katonah Museum of Art in suburban New York City.

Meade's first task will be to oversee the presentation of Radical Presence, an exhibition about black performance in visual art from the 1960s to the present. One of his future shows will focus on the work of visual artists who collaborated with choreographer Merce Cunningham whose archive the Walker owns.

He previously worked as a curator at the Sculpture Center in New York City and at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle. He has a M.A. degree in creative writing from Columbia and a M.A. from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard.

Isla Leaver-Yap, photo provided by Walker Art Center

The second appointee is Isla Leaver-Yap who will take the new post of  Bentson Visiting Film Scholar starting March 3. Presently living in Glasgow, Scotland she is expected to do research on the Walker's Ruben/Bentson Film and Video Collection which has a high concentration of avant garde films dated from 1943 - 1985. She will report to Meade but also work closely with Sheryl Mousley, the Walker's film curator.

Leaver-Yap has extensive experience with film groups in London and New York. She has an MA in art history and English and a MSc in Art History Research from the University of Edinburg, Scotland.

Minneapolis museum spotlights art rescued by "Monuments Men."

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: January 30, 2014 - 1:02 PM

Purchased last year by the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the 1505  terracotta bust of Saint John the Baptist  (above) by Benedetto da Rovezzano was rescued by the "Monuments Men" in 1945 after having been looted by the Nazis.

It is among nine artworks in the museum's collection that will be spotlit in a self-guided "Monuments Men" tour of the museum's collection available Feb. 3. The tour coincides with the February 7 release of the Monuments Men film about a team of art historians, conservators and museum directors whom President Franklin Roosevelt sent into Germany to find and safeguard thousands of paintings, sculpture and priceless artifacts that the Nazis had confiscated from museums and private collections. Many of the artworks were destined for a grandiose museum that Hitler intended to build in celebration of his conquests. Hidden in caves, saltmines, churches, castles and other repositories throughout German-held territories, the art was in danger of theft, bombardments and further looting as the Nazi regime collapsed. 

The film, starring George Clooney as George Stout and Matt Damon as James Rorimer,  is based on Robert M Edsel's terrific book about the intellectuals and aesthetes who risked their lives to save European culture and return priceless objects to their rightful owners.

Cate Blanchett plays Rose Valland, a clever, multi-lingual French woman who worked quietly at the Jeu de Paume, the Paris museum from which the Nazi's dispatched stolen and confiscated artworks to Germany. Risking her own life, she clandestinely copied the Nazi's art-transport records and gave them to the French resistance which eventually got them to the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Section, as the Monuments Men were officially known.

Clooney's character, George Stout, was in reality an art conservator who later directed the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in Boston. After the war, Damon's character, James Rorimer, returned to New York where he headed the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1955 until his death in 1966.

Other artworks on the Minneapolis museum's tour include paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Johannes Lingelbach, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Lyonel Feininger, Willem de Poorter, and Pierre-Paul Prud'hon; a statue by Adam Lenckhardt, and a dreidel "with a remarkable story of survival."

Two former Monuments Men served on the Minneapolis museum's staff: Richard Davis (1917-1985)  was a curator at the museum from 1946 - 1956, and director from '56 to 1959. A passionate collector, Davis is remembered for boosting the museum's collection of 20th century and contemporary art and, more controversially, for selling-off art that was not then fashionable in order to pay for the new purchases. As a member of the U.S. Naval Reserves during WWII he was first a diplomatic courier for the Department of State and later was posted to Japan where he helped track down and return art that the Japanese had looted from occupied countries.

The MIA's second "Monuments Man" was Harry Dobson Miller Grier (1914-1972), an architect-archeologist who had worked at the Met in New York prior to WWII. Taking leave from the museum he enlisted in the U.S. Army, participated in the Normandy invasion, and was acting chief of the Berlin bureau of the Monuments Men from 1945 - 46. He was assistant director of the MIA from 1946 to 1951 when he returned to New York to work at the Frick Collection, serving as director there from 1964 until his death in 1972.


Kim Gordon to rear her Body/Head at the MIA in February

Posted by: Chris Riemenschneider Updated: January 27, 2014 - 9:08 AM

The sort of rocking art-punk event we’re accustomed to seeing at Walker Art Center, indie-rock heroine Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth fame will bring her new music project Body/Head to the other big museum in town, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, for a Feb. 27 concert. Her guitar-driven duo with Bill Nace will perform in the MIA’s 600-capacity Reception Hall, where Dessa also recently performed. Tickets ($20) go on sale Tuesday at 10 a.m. via ArtsMIA.org.

Following recent appearances at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Detroit’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Body/Head was picked to kick off a new series called Sound.Art.MIA, a pet project of contemporary art curator (and former Walker staffer) Elizabeth Armstrong. Gordon reportedly requested local banjo experimentalist Paul Metzger to open her first Twin Cities gig since the 2011 break-up of Sonic Youth.

Body/Head's experimental, frayed debut, "Coming Apart," came out in September on Matador Records. This Pitchfork.tv video is a good teaser of what to expect of their live show.

Securian Financial gives Tony Smith sculpture to Weisman Art Museum

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: January 16, 2014 - 3:24 PM

Securian Financial Services, a St. Paul-based company, has given a three-piece Tony Smith sculpture to the University of Minnesota's Weisman Art Museum. The company commissioned the sculpture from Smith in 1979 for an indoor plaza at its then-new corporate headquarters at 6th St. and Robert in downtown St. Paul.

The company now has other plans for the plaza and so is giving the sculpture to the Weisman which owns 55 sculptures that are displayed on the grounds and in buildings throughout the University's Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses. The Smith piece will be installed this summer or fall on the plaza outside the McNamara Alumni Center on the University's East Bank Minneapolis campus.

Tony Smith (1912 - 1980) was an internationally known American artist whose sculptures are featured in public parks, museums and private collections throughout the United States. He envisioned the parts of the Securian commission scattered in the atrium "as if tossed like dice by the hand of a god."

Called "One, Two, Three," the sculpture consists of three abstract, geometric forms in graduating sizes. They were "based on Smith's concept of 'mathematical continuance,' in which each individual piece derived from the previous one," Securian said in a statement, adding that "the concept appealed to Securian, where math is integral to its financial services businesses." 

Before the 2,700 pound steel sculpture is placed outside, its bronze-toned surface will be treated so it will not be damaged by exposure to rain, snow and other potentially damaging weather.

For an online tour of 25 of the Weisman's sculptures on the University campus, go here.

Former Walker Art Center curator to head Los Angeles Museum

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: January 16, 2014 - 12:25 PM

Vergne in a Thomas Hirschhorn 2006 installation at the Walker. Star Tribune staff photo by Tom Wallace.

Philippe Vergne, who was curator and later Deptuy Director and Chief Curator at  Walker Art Center, has been picked as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. He follows Jeffrey Deitch, a former New York art dealer, whose controversial leadership of MOCA ended with his resignation last September after three years on the job.

The 35 year old museum in downtown Los Angeles has struggled financially in recent years as it tried to manage three sites and to develop an artistic vision that would please artists and excite support from wealthy collectors and potential donors. Within the past year board members raised $100 million to shore up an endowment that had dropped to $6 million in the 2008 financial crisis. The money is expected to produce income of at least $5 million annually to support operations.

Vergne,47, is fondly remembered in Minneapolis for his indelible French accent and his venturesome exhibitions which included more than 25 international shows including solo show and installations by Yves Klein, Thomas Hirschhorn, Huang Yong Ping and Kara Walker.

His decade long association with the Walker (1998 - 2007) was briefly interrupted by a return to his native France to run the private Francois Pinault Foundation in Paris. When the foundation's namesake mogul decided to relocate the foundation to Venice, Vergne in 2005 returned to the Walker as Deptuy Director and Chief Curator.

In 2008 he moved to New York to head the Dia Art Foundation which focuses on massive installations, conceptual, and earth-art primarily by mid-20th century Americans. He is credited with strengthening Dia's board of directors, consolidating its operations, and developing long range plans to stabilize its finances and artistic ambitions.

Artists have been deeply involved with MOCA since its founding in 1979 and their vociferous criticism of Deitch as overly commercial contributed to his departure. Conceptualist John Baldessari heartily endorsed Vergne's selection, saying in a statement issued by the museum, "I am 100% excited that Philippe Vergne will be the new director of MOCA. MOCA is very fortunate. I think it's a perfect marriage."

Other artists who touted Vergne in the museum's statement include Barbara Kruger who cited his "intelligence, vision, and ambition to lead MOCA forward;" Catherine Opie who declared herself "personally thrilled;" and Ed Ruscha who dubbed him "the most artist friendly and at the same time the most community friendly" candidate.

Richard Koshalek, a MOCA director in the 1980s, told the New York Times that, "The most important challenge for the new director is to raise the standard of expectations of the museum within this community and beyond, and that means new, original ideas for the future. If you don't raise expectations in every sense -- in terms of leadership, programs and such -- you will not have the chance to raise the funding needed for the museum to sustain itself programmatically and operationally going forward."

Koshalek, who began his career as a Walker curator in the 1970s, recently returned to L.A. after running the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D. C. for several years. In one of those small-world, musical-chairs coincidences endemic in the art community, the Walker's current director Olga Viso preceded Koshalek as director of the Hirshhorn.


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