Guggenheim Names New Director

September 24, 2008 · Print This Article

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via the New York Times:

After a seven-month search, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation on Tuesday named Richard Armstrong of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh as its next director.

Mr. Armstrong, 59, who has been director of the Carnegie for 12 years, succeeds Thomas Krens, who announced in February that he was stepping down after nearly 20 years.

In a decision that was widely reported in the art world, Guggenheim trustees settled on Mr. Armstrong in late August but did not vote formally until its board meeting on Tuesday afternoon. Their choice appears to signal a distinct change in style for the Guggenheim, whose international ambitions under Mr. Krens have stirred some conflict within the institution in recent years.

“We were looking for someone with a passion for art who understood that the New York museum is at the center of our universe,” said Jennifer Blei Stockman, president of the Guggenheim’s board.

Under the long tenure of the provocative Mr. Krens, the Guggenheim transformed itself into a global brand with branches in Berlin, Venice and Bilbao, Spain, as well as a planned museum in Abu Dhabi that is expected to open in 2013. Now the Guggenheim seems eager for a more centered presence.

“We interviewed a lot of young avant-garde European and American museum directors and thought, do we want another maverick who puts their stamp on the museum or a seasoned expert who is a wise adult and who would put the needs of the institution and the staff first?” Ms. Stockman said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Armstrong, who assumes the post on Nov. 4, will nonetheless be responsible for the foundation’s global network of museums as well as its New York headquarters.

Just as the Metropolitan Museum selected a highly respected curator this month to be its next director, naming Thomas P. Campbell, a noted scholar, to succeed Philippe de Montebello, the Guggenheim’s search committee opted for a leader with a long curatorial history rather than a professional administrator or a fund-raising wizard.

Before he was named director of the Carnegie in 1996, Mr. Armstrong served there for four years, initially as a curator for contemporary art and then as the chief contemporary-art curator. In 1995 he organized the centennial version of the Carnegie International, a sprawling contemporary survey show.

Mr. Armstrong is also deeply familiar with New York’s museum culture. He worked at the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1981 to 1992 in curatorial posts and as senior instructor of its Independent Study Program. He helped organize three of the Whitney’s Biennials — in 1987, 1989 and 1991 — along with a 1991 exhibition devoted to the sculptor Alexis Smith and other shows.

Sipping tea during an interview in the Carlyle Hotel, Mr. Armstrong who like Mr. Krens is tall and strapping at 6 feet 5 inches tall, said he saw his role as one of “empowering curators.”

Mr. Krens was often criticized for organizing exhibitions that were so sweeping in theme that they sometimes lacked sharp scholarly focus, like “Africa: The Art of a Continent” in 1996, “China: 5,000 Years” in 1998 and “Brazil: Body & Soul” in 2001. Some faulted him for unconventional shows like “The Art of the Motorcycle” in 1998 and “Giorgio Armani” in 2000.

Mr. Armstrong said it was “unlikely” that he would pursue that type of programming. He said he did not know Mr. Krens and had not yet consulted with him about the Guggenheim.

As director, he said, one of his aims will be to draw on the Guggenheim’s rich permanent collection as well as to present shows exploring what young artists are doing today.

“I remember when I was growing up the Guggenheim was frequently the source for enlightenment about European art, and then it had an edge for accommodating new, younger artists,” he said.

Today, Mr. Armstrong said, he finds the Guggenheim’s interest in Asia “and I hope Latin America” exciting. He said he was attracted by the museum’s “ability to bring information to the public that might otherwise be overlooked.”

Born in Kansas City, Mo., Mr. Armstrong studied art history at Lake Forest College in Illinois and said he was deeply influenced there by Franz Schulze, a historian of Modern architecture who he said helped him appreciate art as well.

Mr. Armstrong studied in France at the University of Dijon and then the Sorbonne in Paris. “It was in France that I started looking at art more seriously,” he said. “By the time I left I was pretty well hooked.”

But his first memory of looking at art dates from when he was living in Washington in his early teens. “I would go to museums because they were air-conditioned,” he said. “I particularly remember a painting by Arthur Dove at the Phillips Collection.”

The Guggenheim has just completed a sweeping renovation of the facade of its 1959 Frank Lloyd Wright building. (To mark the occasion, a light projection by the artist Jenny Holzer made its debut on the facade Monday night and will appear each Friday night through December.)

Mr. Armstrong is no stranger to renovations. At the Carnegie he oversaw the refurbishing of several of the museum’s exhibition spaces, including the Scaife Galleries and the Heinz Galleries and an expansion of the Heinz Architectural Center. He was also responsible for acquisitions like “Untitled (Domestic),” a monumental 2002 sculptural installation by the British artist Rachel Whiteread that the Carnegie bought jointly with the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.

In June Mr. Armstrong announced that he would resign as the Carnegie’s director. “I slowly had come to the conclusion that I should wrap things up,” he said, adding that he wanted to give his successor a long lead time to organize the next Carnegie International.

Although had not lined up a job, he said, he had had one “casual conversation” with the Guggenheim before he resigned.

Mr. Armstrong said he hoped to bolster the Guggenheim’s online presence to help lure younger audiences to the museum. “It’s their portal to knowledge,” he said. “We’ve got a generation that knows all about Paris Hilton but nothing about Paris. That needs to be enriched and brought back into alignment.”

He said that while he dislikes using the term “permanent collection” because it “turns everyone off,” he hopes to find ways of re-interpreting the Guggenheim’s holdings in eye-opening ways.

“That’s one of the things you want to reassert especially to young people, who think everything is disposable,” he said. “One of the charms of the museum is being able to go back time and again and see the same works in the same place month after month, year after year.”

“Those talismans,” Mr. Armstrong said, “are extremely useful to people’s development.”




Episode 160: The All Canada Show

September 21, 2008 · Print This Article

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This week Duncan returns to his homeland. A nation that although slightly socialist, does not own it’s own insurance agency or mortgage lender. What it does have “cooking” is a different Art funding system and a network of Galleries that are called “Artist Run Centers.” MN Hutchinson fills us in on how they work. Then Calgary’s best contemporary Art Dealers, Emily Barnett and Bart Habermiller at “Skew Gallery” explains what they do and the outlook for the local Calgary Art world.

Please note the 100% Canadian Music Showcase.
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Grudge Match From Way Back

September 19, 2008 · Print This Article

Bad at Sports Boxing Match
If you ever wondered when Bad at Sports really started it was not in 2005. In reality it was in 1896 Richard’s GG Grandfather Josiah Holland and Duncan’s GG Grandfather Cyrus MacKenzie meet at a bar in St. Louis, MO both having tried to get the postal digits of a young barmaid. Both having struck out and blaming each other for the result the grudge that has lasted the centuries began.

Over 100 years later it has come to a head again. This time over the use of the word webby and interweb but this time only one can survive.

Who will win, vote this weekend and see.
Bad at Sports Boxing Richard HollandBad at Sports Boxing Duncan MacKenzie

Oh also that barmaid that won the hearts but not hand of our two hosts? Turns out she was the GG Grandmother of Christopher Hudgens, one Temperance Hudgens. Kaveh Soofi was the photographer who captured this epic moment in Art grudge history.




Still Alive Typography Video

September 17, 2008 · Print This Article


Portal – Still Alive typography from Trickster on Vimeo
Take one of the most originally passive aggressively humorous songs ever written for pop culture let alone video games and the set it to contemporary typography arrangements and you get something truly interesting.




Episode 159: Bay Area Now 5

September 13, 2008 · Print This Article

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This week Brian and Patricia head over to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to check out Bay Area Now 5, a triennial of local contemporary art. Joining the round table discussion are curators Berin Golonu, Valerie Imus, and Taraneh Hemami, as well as participating artists Ian McDonald, Edmundo de Marcheno, and Jonn Herschend.

YBCA’s fifth triennial exhibition of Bay Area art explores questions around how to re-imagine a regional survey in the midst of globalization. What continues to draw artists here and makes the Bay Area a unique place to live and work when more and more of us are traversing the globe and becoming international citizens? How does the physical geography of the Bay, both natural and constructed, influence the Bay Area as a site of artistic production?

How does the history of this region, including its legacy of social activism, shape Bay Area residents’ understanding of themselves and the rest of the world’s notion of this place? What are the contrasts between the myths, ideals and realities of the Bay Area and the aspirations of its residents? The Bay Area Now 5 survey exhibition asks these questions to explore the many ways artists are influenced by their experiences both inside and outside of the Bay Area. Read more