From the looks of its post-meeting press release, it doesn’t appear that the Association of Art Museum Directors paid much attention to the two hot-button issues that I had suggested should be fodder for discussion at the group’s annual conclave last week.
I still believe that forceful guidelines are urgently needed to rein in self-sponsored shows of objects drawn entirely from a collection of an individual or a corporation. And the association needs to put a lid on rent-a-shows, whereby object-rich museums extract big bucks from object-poor museums, letting financial exigency trump collegiality.
AAMD did report that a future task force may “address…relationships with foreign countries and the role of international exchange.” We can only hope that the rental trend may receive critical scrutiny from that task force, countering the favorable verdict of the artworld luminaries who spoke at the panel discussion—-euphemistically titled, International Collaborations in the Arts—that I recently attended at New York’s Asia Society,
Speaking of exploiting collections as cash cows, the Museum of Modern Art and the Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, have just entered into a three-year, six-exhibition “partnership” (really a one-way rental deal, in the manner of the Louvre-High Museum “collaboration”), which will begin next June with more than 100 works from MoMA’s collection shipped Down Under, in a show entitled, “Picasso to Warhol: 12 Modern Masters.”
Some $6 million in government support will go towards the MoMA/AGWA project, according to a statement issued by John Day, Western Australia’s Minister for Planning, Culture and the Arts. The director of the Perth museum, Stefano Carboni, a former curator and administrator in the Department of Islamic Art at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, hailed “the opportunity to bring such high-calibre exhibitions to Perth.”
At least Australia is being forthright about the finances of this arrangement, unlike the Art Gallery of Ontario, which refused to disclose to me whether its current Abstract Expressionist New York was designed to raise millions for MoMA, its first venue, which had assembled the show from its own collection. With its impending purchase (reportedly for $31.2 million) of the current home of the American Folk Art Museum, MoMA could probably use a few extra millions in reserve.
According to MoMA’s 2010 financial statement, revenues from circulating exhibition fees totaled $2.9 million in that fiscal year, up sharply from $749,000 the previous year. MoMA’s 2010 operating surplus was $1.88 million, up sharply from $320,000 the previous year.
The one hot-button issue that AAMD did mention in its wrap-up from Raleigh is the continued detention of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. While reaffirming its previously stated support for the petition calling for Ai’s release, AAMD did not join those (like me) who believe that U.S. museums hosting major loan shows from China should in some way refer to the artist’s plight.
Instead, AAMD stated this:
We believe it is vitally important to continue cultural exchanges, dialogue, and collaboration with China.
A more principled gesture was made on Friday by “a small group of artists [who] held a ‘sing-in’ at the Milwaukee Art Museum…in solidarity with…Ai Weiwei,” as reported by Mary Louise Schumacher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The protesters were supportive of the exhibit, “The Emperor’s Private Paradise,” an unprecedented show of 18th-century objects from the Forbidden City. But they called upon MAM to take a stronger stand against the suppression of artists in China.
Its press release, AAMD provided a list of eight newly inducted members. Jeffrey Deitch LA MOCA’s dealer-turned director, was notably missing from that list. In answer to my query, an AAMD spokesperson said that Deitch “has not applied for membership.”
Tom Campbell, director of the Metropolitan Museum, didn’t make it to North Carolina for the annual meeting of his colleagues. He did, however, make it to Italy, appearing at the VIP previews of the Venice Biennale, which began just prior to AAMD’s meeting.
Max Anderson, whose Indianapolis Museum organized the Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla show at the Biennale’s U.S. Pavilion, managed to jet from Venice to Raleigh in time to partake in AAMD’s deliberations.