Thursday, January 21, 2010

Deaccessions at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

William McGregor Paxton

Why would anyone want to get rid of this painting?
That's the kind of question that art lovers might like to ask
and museum curators would not like to answer.

So, usually museum deaccessions are not made public.

Until... the Indianapolis Museum of Art
aired out all their dirty (and sometimes beautiful) laundry
on their internet website,
listing 800 items that they're trying to dump at auction

(fortunately, the minimum was not met
for the above painting,
so they're still stuck with it)

But if curators want to sell something,
you can be sure that they won't be
putting in on display,
so the only reason for keeping it in a dark basement
is the possibly vain hope that their successors
will see things differently.

800 pieces is a lot of stuff,
but when you look through the list,
there's a whole lot of commemorative medalions
ladies' purses, and fragments of lace.

It's quite far from the cataclysmic deaccessions
that Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo endured four years ago,
when the board of trustees dumped all its historical art,
to raise money to buy contemporary.

And the above "Veronese"
is a good example
of the Indianapolis Museum's
collection of "Old Master" paintings.

I.e. -- it sucks,
and a thorough housecleaning
is way overdue.

But that doesn't mean I agree much with their choices.

For example, this Walter Ufer
is getting dumped as a "Secondary Example"
...except that ... it's the only Walter Ufer
that they have.
(the distorted image above is the only one available,
so I have to guess that it's as good
as the Ufers in the Art Institute of Chicago)

John Koch
Portrait of Elizabeth Stout Davis

And here's another "secondary example"
that's the only painting in their collection
by this artist - and probably the
best mid-20th Century American portrait
that they (or anybody) have got.

Conroy Hudlow

While this is possibly the only late 20th C.
American life-size nude figure sculpture
in their collection.

I hope it ends up
sitting next to somebody's
swimming pool.

Stokely Webster

And here's some other things
that caught my eye
even if I'm not sure that
I wouldn't have dumped them too.

R. Aherns

Pierre Cabanel

This one might just need a good cleaning

Mrs. Edward G. Robinson

Is she the wife of the movie star?
This one is pretty good.

Gary Freeman "Broken Walrus"

Like most of the things they're dumping,
I would never have acquired this one,
by a local art professor ,in the first place.
But now it's on the block
because it's been rusting out

Domenico Paneetti

This one has some charm,
but I don't think it belongs
in an art museum

Donald DeLue

Unless they have a second copy of this one,
they should have kept it.

No artist is listed for this,
which is kind of odd,
because it's less than 50 years old.

I'd say it was worth keeping.


But why should anyone care
about my opinion?
(or yours, for that matter)

Institutions create their own agendas
which generally have nothing to do
with their stated purpose,
and the only role
for visitors or even members
of American art museums
is to pay for admittance.

this sudden burst of institutional transparency
will encourage some members of that museum
to use the internet
to discuss the choices made by their local art museum.

But if anyone really cared about historical art
in Indianapolis,
they probably would have moved
to another city by now.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sister Margaret

Just stumbled across this nice scene today,
in a courtyard beside the DePaul University Library.
(a fine place for it)

The sculptor is Margaret Beaudette S.C.

These figures
have such dignity
and charm.

They avoid
feeling small, cute
and saccharine.

and hold their space
in a gentle kind of way

while fitting together
as an interactive tableau

Sister Margaret has a knack
for simple expression

The face of a good, healthy person
is a very important thing to portray.

And every time/place/artist
does it just a little different

The face and figure
of a kind, wise person
is a very important thing
to express as well.

But this is exactly the kind of expression
that is categorically excluded
from institutions of contemporary art.

And I would even be surprised to find
this piece shown in the art museums
of our two local Catholic universities,
DePaul and Loyola.

(and even more surprised
if an artist like Sister Margaret
were teaching in their art departments)