Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it takes to put a work of art on view. To our visitors, it should seem oh-so-easy: You see painting A (something you love) one day, and on your next visit it’s replaced with painting B (something you love even more). But behind the scenes, it’s anything but. As you relax and take in the holidays, here’s a little piece of our frenetic world to consider. (And as a little holiday bonus from me to you, all images are from 1983—enjoy!)
Heide Hinrichs is the fourth artist in our SAM Next series, a contemporary art exhibition program at the museum. Borrowed tails, which opened in November, is a body of work the artist developed specifically for this installation, making it the first time these drawings and sculptures are presented to the public. While she was at the museum installing her show we had the opportunity to talk to her about her work.
“Behind the scenes” responsibilities at an arts organization are not always the most glamorous work. In Public Programming at SAM, back-end work includes contracts, stage set-up, power point preparation, and many late-nights, among other things. The latest of my nights, but also one of the most exciting to work on, is the quarterly SAM Remix program. During Remix, my department has the opportunity to program the entire building in an effort to create a unique experience that engages audiences with the art on view through a more interdisciplinary and interactive approach.
Long-time museum photographer and a great Northwest artist, Paul will be missed by all who had the pleasure to work with him at SAM.
Untitled, From the Dungeness and Grey Wolf, 1972, Paul Macapia, American, 1934-2009, color photograph, 10 3/4 x 10 3/4 in., Gift of Neil Meitzler, 77.24, © Paul Macapia
Despite working in the arts, like most people I tend to find more time to really look at art when I’m separated from my day-to-day life. Not only that, though. Wherever I am, I always have trouble separating art history from my perceptions of the world. Spending time someplace unfamiliar, I find that I almost instinctively seek insight into the people and the culture there through what the locals like to look at.
Poor Hammering Man! His arm is coming off this afternoon and will be flown to Michigan for repairs. Seattle Times columnist Nicole Brodeur wrote this great piece last month about his condition.
More often than not, museum books and catalogs feature masterpieces—and only masterpieces. But what about the questionable pieces, forgeries, objects in unfortunate condition, or, to be frank, ones that puzzle even the most experienced experts? Aren’t issues like that just as interesting as those surrounding highly acclaimed artworks? Because of the economics of publishing, ‘coffee-table books’, as museum catalogues are sometimes known, miss out on long lists of fascinating ‘second-tier’ objects and intriguing issues that consume much of a curator’s time.
SAM is about to change all that. We’re making our Chinese painting calligraphy and holdings more accessible to the public through a new online catalogue. Under the auspices of the Getty Foundation, we’re designing new ways of presenting information about this rich but little-known collection. Just like in traditional catalogs, we’ll share relevant information about esteemed works of art. But this catalog will include much more.
While the public probably expects art museums to venerate famous creators from the historical past (Michelangelo and Alexander Calder jump to mind), few institutions are practically skilled at paying tribute to younger artists, and still more rare are those that are capable of committing the time necessary to really get to know creative men and women. Outside of planning exhibitions and acquiring their works of art—professional practices typically reserved for artists who are substantially far along in their careers—how do museums show that they are engaged with artists at a deep, supportive level? Limited time, limited resources, and basic risk aversion all weigh against engaging deeply with artists as a community.
Our new director Derrick Cartwright gives you an inside look into the Michelangelo Public and Private and Alexander Calder exhibition galleries with curators Chiyo Ishikawa and Dr. Gary Radke.
All works of art by artist Alexander Calder in the video are copyright © 2009 Calder Foundation, New York / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.