I read a blind item in the BaerFaxt, a widely read art world e-mail service, that echoed a rumor that has circulated in the inner sanctum of the art world this week: "Normally we don't run 'blind' items or gossip - but this 'story' has tempted us - which downtown NYC art gallerist may enter the museum world as the director of a major west coast museum?" Needless to say the reaction was immediate. Some dismissed it as a "sick joke," others lamented that the placement of an art dealer at the head of one of the most important contemporary art museums in America is a reflection of the utter collapse between the museum and the market, and some are open to the idea.
This week, the news surfaced that Australian millionaire David Walsh has entered into an arrangement to film the French artist Christian Boltanski's entire life. He will be filmed 24 hours a day in his Paris studio until he dies. The Herald Sun reported that the video will be streamed live in an undisclosed cave in Tasmania and eventually footage will be featured in Walsh's new museum, opening in Tasmania in 2011.
On Tuesday night, at the launch for the Getty Research Institute's new book Harry Smith: The Avant-Garde in the American Vernacular, I was reminded of the magic and discovery that comes from scholarship. The editors Andrew Perchuk and Rani Singh talked about how Smith, who defied categorization - a filmmaker, musicologist, painter, ethnographer, graphic designer, mystic, collector of string figures - was among the most original creative forces in post war art and culture, yet his life and work remain misunderstood, and needless to say he was never represented by a commercial gallery. Smith was always searching, something now, with Google at our fingertips, we all have the power to do, but academics who commit their lives to the search for and contextualization of knowledge - outside of the market - create the best links.
The credibility that museums bestow - we talked about how Picasso and his dealers understood this, a story brilliantly told by Michael Fitzgerald in The Making of Modernism: Picasso and the Creation of the Market for Twentieth Century Art - and how sad it is that increasingly, contemporary curators can only get support for projects with artists that already have a gallery and an established base of collectors. Historically, museums house, collect and care for objects of scientific, artistic or historical importance and contextualize them through exhibitions. In his book, Museum Memories: History, Technology, Art, Didier Maleuvre wrote that:
From its official inception near the turn of the nineteenth century, the museum has been more than a mere historical object; it has manufactured an image of history. By collecting past artifacts, it gives shape and presence to history, inventing it, in effect, by defining a space of ritual encounter with the past.
I think that one of the most important roles of the contemporary art museum is to create an image of our present. And anything is possible in the twenty-first century. We must, together, continue to guard the spirit and activity of scholarship in museums including those devoted to contemporary art.
FYA wishes to congratulate Ari Wiseman on his appointment this week as the Deputy Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. We will miss him in L.A.