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Jeremy Strick’s New Gig: Not Your Founder’s Nasher

Inside (and outside) the Nasher Sculpture Center

If you connect the dots in my Q&A with Jeremy Strick, published yesterday, you will note that I found (literally) 10 different ways of asking him what mistakes he made that contributed to LA MOCA’s near-fatal financial crash. Jeremy found 10 different ways of admitting that he bore some responsibility, while evading my requests for specifics. Either he doesn’t know, or he won’t say.

In the end, LA MOCA’s deposed director seemed to blame the trustees, the economy and the museum’s “broken [financial] model” more than himself.

He is, as self-described, “always optimistic.” And he’s already brimming with ideas on how to reinvigorate, even transform, the Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas. When he talked to me about his vision, he hadn’t yet sat down (does he ever sit down?) in the director’s chair. He began his new job this week.

Strick may have found the perfect outlet for his manic energy at this enchanting indoor/outdoor space that’s been in a holding pattern for two years, since its founding director, Steven Nash, left for the Palm Springs Art Museum. The month of Nash’s departure, March 2007, was also when Raymond Nasher, the center’s founding chairman, died. Ray not only gave his extraordinarily rich collection to his eponymous institution, but had masterminded and funded the construction of its justly acclaimed Renzo Piano-designed facility.

Once the settlement of Nasher’s estate is finalized, Strick may have some $100 million of endowment money to play with. As you might expect, he has no shortage of ideas on how to use it.

According to Strick, the Nasher had virtually stopped collecting after the death of its founder, who “was acquiring till the end of his life.” Jeremy wants it to be a “living, growing collection” significantly expanded its scope.

He told me:

We’re thinking about sculptors’ drawings and photographs, and also thinking about media that are not represented in the collection—installation work, ceramics, land art, electronic media.

The Jerem-ized exhibition program may range even farther afield:

I want to think about the field of sculpture very broadly and think about the chronological parameters. Since the collection has a chronological focus [19th century to the present], you might want the exhibition program to be more expansive—to go backwards in time.

The collection is about modern and contemporary sculpture. But I think the intention of the sculpture center is always to provide context to that. I think we should be open to the notion of expanding the chronological field as well as to addressing sculptural practices in the exhibition program that aren’t currently represented in the collection.

Specifically, he said, colleagues recently asked if he’d be interested in a show they were organizing on a 16th-century sculptor. “It’s an interesting question,” he observed.

This job represents coming full-circle for Strick, who began his curatorial career at the National Gallery, Washington, where his first assignment was to work on the 1987 exhibition of works from the Nasher Collection. With a more secure financial base than he had at LA MOCA, he hopes to spend less time chasing donors, more time contemplating art.

“The Nasher,” he said, “represents to me the potential to return to the notion of being more of a curator, which I find appealing.”

an ArtsJournal blog