Boca Raton Museum of Art
501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, FL 33432
In Mizner Park
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|Monday, April 26, 2010|
|Stanley Boxer’s Widow Arrives in Boca to Conserve Husband’s Painting|
Joyce Weinstein conserving Stanley Boxer painting
Despite our strict storage standards and endeavors to handle art objects extra-carefully (no small feat for a klutz like myself), artworks still tend to degrade over time. No matter how careful museums are with their collections, gravity and time just take over.
That is what happened with our painting, Havocpockedfeysnowboughs by Stanley Boxer. Mr. Boxer was an abstract artist known for his heavy application of paint. He focused on texture and form in his paintings, and the paint literally rises up off the canvas in waves.
Havocpockedfeysnowboughs was created in 1976 so it is over 30 years old. At that time, Boxer did not use a fixative to protect the oil paints he daubed so generously over his canvases. Time took its toll and much of the parrot green, the pink and the white oil paint have begun to flake slowly off of his work.
Boxer died in 2000, leaving a widow, Joyce Weinstein. She is also an artist and was kind enough to grace our museum with her presence at the recent opening, Rememberingstanleyboxer: A Retrospective Besides charming the patrons and members of the museum with her cheerful demeanor, she also agreed to touch up Stanley's painting.
See more of Joyce Weinstein's art.
Of course, we have several professionals in the area that we use for the array of conservation needs that can arise in a museum setting. But truly, having Boxer's wife fill in the missing portions seemed much more appropriate. In our art storage area, Ms. Weinstein studiously bent bent over Boxer's large canvas, 50 x 80 inches, and recreated the textured swirls and swathes of color for which he is best known.
|Tuesday, April 20, 2010|
|How Dark is Too Dark?|
After hearing the Museum’s Senior Curator, Wendy Blazier speak on the Mary Cassatt: Works on Paper exhibition, I became enlightened to the quandary she and other Curators have when choosing works on paper to exhibit. I was one of the masses who consistently complained about the low level of illumination for works on paper in gallery spaces.
For the Boca Raton Museum of Art with an extensive collection of art works on paper the dilemma faced when exhibiting these works is ongoing. The balance between the visitor’s visual enjoyment and the protection of the artwork taxes the dual mandate of conservation and exhibition.
It is common for museums to set standard exhibition durations for works of this type. These seem to have a rather broad range from 4 weeks per year to six months per year. In a demonstration project published in 2000 in the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, Christopher Cuttle’s research resulted in a major shift in envisioning museum lighting. Using a filter with three bands of colored light instead of one monochromatic light source reduced the energy which causes degradation. This type of lighting will probably inflict less photochemical damage at equal illumination and duration. Another large contribution was the Getty Conservation Institute’s project to review, analyze and recommend new techniques for illuminating works of art on paper:
Although technology and the understanding of light qualities have advanced tremendously and will continue to address this problem, the fact remains light damage cannot be stopped or reversed.
Although I am now a convert to low illuminated gallery spaces I wonder if there is a solution for the institution’s to satisfy the visitor‘s high visual expectations? Is there a way to educate visitors so that they come to appreciate this dilemma?
|Friday, April 9, 2010|
|Deaccession: Rosenbaum vs. LACMA|
||As a recipient of Douglas McLennan’s ArtsJournal’s free daily newsletter, it is not uncommon for me to read Lee Rosenbaum’s CultureGrrl blog from time to time. I read her blog recently, in order to find out about the Halsey Minor and Sotheby’s trial . That post is interesting in its own right, in terms of art law, but I was drawn away by a link on the same page to an article that she had written for the New York Times in 2005; For Sale: Our Permanent Collection. It is this article, though 5 years old, that I would like to address today.
Considering that I have been Curatorial Assistant at the BRMA for less than 2 years, I will be the first to tell you that I am probably not as well-versed in the deaccession process as Lee Rosenbaum or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, who she takes to task in this article. Which is why it upset me to read the sweeping generalizations that Ms. Rosenbaum used as argument when criticizing the LACMA’s deaccession policy.
Here at the BRMA, we are currently undergoing the long, arduous process of deaccessioning items from the collection. As an AAM-accredited institution, we must adhere to strict guidelines in terms of how we choose and ultimately disseminate our deaccessioned artworks. Based on what I have learned here, I take issue with a few points.
|Example of Alberto Giacometti sculpture
Courtesy of katicabogar's photo stream, Flickr
Rosenbaum’s Critique of the LACMA Deaccession
Firstly, Rosenbaum has it correct that items which are:
- Widely traveled
- Admired by experts and public alike
- Considered historically significant pieces
Usually are the least likely to be chosen for deaccessioning.
For the LACMA, admittedly, eliminating an Alberto Giacometti that was displayed in a three-part sculptural installation is a bit odd, to say the least. However, simplifying the curators’ desire to expand the collection merely to “redecorate their shiny new edifices with some appropriately breathtaking acquisitions” is short-sighted. By comparing the curators to overzealous interior designers she insinuates that they are acting frivolously, releasing a great piece to purchase a new one for decoration. I find it highly unlikely that the LACMA deaccession is akin to “going shopping” with the money to satiate a mere whim on the curators’ part.
It is obvious that Rosenbaum fears the dispersal of our country’s treasures. True, it is printed in most museums’ missions that their purpose is to act as custodians of culture and that deaccessioning items does not seem to be guarding them very well.
Read the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s Mission.
However, it is at the discretion of the Board of Directors, Director of the Museum, and Head Curator to decide what exactly fits that mission and is a good reflection of the culture. This understanding should be fluid. If no business were ever allowed to revise its mission or goals, how would we progress in the world market? Are museums doomed to languish solely in the past, with decades-old visions, simply because we traffic in old things?
Again, Rosenbaum is correct in suggesting that the rules for the LACMA deaccession were to first lend out, or even give, their unwanted items to other museums first, if requested. This is one in a series of steps that the museum must go through before finally selling the item. For the LACMA deaccession, this act highlights the error that Rosenbaum’s op-ed points out, that of releasing such an esteemed piece of work as the bronze Giacometti.
However, Rosenbaum continues on to disparage the Guggenheim for deaccessioning a major Kandinsky in 1990 because they “had so many.” As she mentions, redundancy is an accepted reason to deaccession an item. She chastises the Guggenheim because they are also supposed to “collect an artists’ work in depth.”
That is all well and good, but the Guggenheim has 17 Kandinskys listed on their website in their permanent collection:
- Blue Mountain, 1909
- Black Lines, 1913
- Taut Line, 1931
- Various Actions, 1941
Those were but a few from the listing. Not a broad enough cross-section?
Storage and Collections
In addition, Ms. Rosenbaum’s op-ed seems to have omitted something that many people forget when considering museums and missions. Museums do not have unlimited storage space. Although we would love to take in and care for all the little orphan artworks out there, it wouldn’t be long before we turned into the crazy cat lady you see on the television series Hoarders.
There just isn’t room enough for everything. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt to let an established artist from the canon of art history go in order to make room for a lesser-known artist. Perhaps an artist who didn’t, until recently, receive the attention they deserve (see: most artists who are not either male or white).
Finally, although clever, the last sentence in Rosenbaum’s op-ed article is misleading to those not of the museum world. “When museums cross too many lines, the public's elected representatives must step in. Otherwise, it won't be long before pragmatic museum trustees sell a Degas ‘Toilette’ to pay for the toilets.” It is not accepted practice to use moneys garnered from sales of artworks to pay for building enhancements. It is quite clearly laid out by the AAM that sales of artworks are to be used to purchase new artworks only. Now, I would be remiss not to mention the outcry over the Rose Art Museum’s intent to deaccession its collection to pay for operating costs . But the Rose Art Museum using moneys to keep the lights on is vastly different than suggesting that a burgeoning museum like the LACMA would enhance the facilities at the expense of Mr. Degas.
|Friday, April 2, 2010|
|John De Andrea Sculpture Returns from Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid|
Senior Curator Wendy Blazier just returned from a whirlwind trip to Madrid, accompanying our John DeAndrea sculpture, Released, back from the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza where it had recently been exhibited. Unbeknownst to many, Senior Curators and Registrars get exciting fringe benefits, one of them being trips abroad. Of course, Wendy went to ensure the sanctity of our collection, but she still had a little fun on the trip.
Released has been put back into storage but the other piece from our collection that is in the midst of its world tour, Campeo San Cassiano, Italy by Maurice Prendergast, is now featured at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It is part of the exhibition Prendergast in Italy that debuted at the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts and traveled to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice before returning to Texas. In May, the exhibition will close in Texas and it will return home. We will reinstall it in the Dr. and Mrs. John J. Mayers Gallery on the second-floor west wing.
It is such an honor to loan artwork to such great institutions as these. The John DeAndrea sculpture especially, since we do not normally display her in our galleries. She made an appearance for our Shock of the Real: Photorealism Revisited exhibition last year, but only for the opening nights.
This is why it is significant when a museum such as the Thyssen-Bornemisza, whose focus is comtemporary artists, borrows and displays our treasures.
||John De Andrea, Released, 1989,
polyvinyl polychromed in oil, height 62.5 inches. Permanent Collection 2007.28.1. Gift of Louis K. and Susan P. Meisel
|Thursday, January 28, 2010|
|M.C. Escher at the Boca Raton Museum of Art|
As a self-professed math naïf, the exhibition Marc Bell Presents: The Magical World of M.C. Escher (20 January – 11 April 2010) completely blows my mind. Maurits Cornelis Escher used an intricate graphing system to create his visions of symmetry, unending tessellations and improbable buildings. Perhaps best known for his Drawing Hands, Reptiles, and Self-Portrait in Spherical Mirror, all instructional mainstays for drawing classes, Escher created many more prints and drawings. A major component of his mature career was the diagramed geometric grids that he used to make interlocking designs. These designs utilize complex and varied shapes which fill the plane of the paper without leaving any voids. In the north gallery we have assembled his “Regular Division of the Plane” prints and drawings along with some of his preliminary sketches and equation notations. It is a unique opportunity to see the mind of Escher at work as he develops his elaborate compositions.
Besides the notations found at the edges of some artworks, Escher kept extensive notebooks tracking his various projects. A whimsical fellow, here is his synopsis of the print Reptiles, published in M.C. Escher: The Graphic Work:
The life cycle of a little alligator. Amid all kinds of objects, a drawing book lies open, and the drawing on view is a mosaic of reptilian figures in three contrasting shades. Evidently one of them has tired of lying flat and rigid amongst his fellows, so he puts one plastic-looking leg over the edge of the book, wrenches himself free and launches out into real life. He climbs up the back of a book on zoology and works his laborious way up the slippery slope of a set square to the highest point of his existence. Then after a quick snort, tired but fulfilled, he goes downhill again, via an ashtray, to the level surface, to that flat drawing paper, and meekly rejoins his erstwhile friends, taking up once more his function as an element of surface division.
M.C. ESCHER (Dutch, 1898-1972),
Reptiles, 1943, Bool #327, lithograph,
13 1/8 x 15 1/8 inches.
Courtesy of The Walker Collection.
All M. C. Escher's works and text © The M. C. Escher Company, Baarn, The Netherlands. All rights reserved. M. C. Escher ® is a registered trademark
The three contrasting shades mentioned are part of another primary concern for Escher; color composition. From the very beginning, Escher felt that individual motifs needed to be both recognizable and to have the same value or weight as the other motifs found within the composition. This requires that the motifs should have similar contrast and brightness. In the north gallery, you can see this tendency at work in the two representations of Sun and Moon.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. This exhibition holds almost 400 items created by Escher, the second-largest private collection in the world, courtesy of Rock J. Walker of Walker Fine Arts.
The exhibition traverses his early days spent drawing in Italy, through his interests in mirrored images, impossible buildings, and tessellations. We have cancelled lithographic stones, a chair covered in an Escher print and the work table from his studio.
If you are interested in finding out more about M.C. Escher’s life, you can take a curator highlight tour with Senior Curator Wendy Blazier this Tuesday at 2:30 pm for The Life and Art of M.C. Escher or on March 9th for M.C. Escher’s “Impossible” Objects and Scenes. Free with paid admission to Museum.
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