Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gallery Palette: An Interview about Exhibition Wall Color

By Alexander Jarman, Public Programs Manager

The Museum has installed a lot of exhibitions in the past year and each one of them came with a fresh coat of paint.  Wall color is an important component of our gallery spaces- it has the power to enhance works of art or detract from them.  To learn a bit more about this matter, I asked the Museum’s own Andrew Marino and John Marciari (Museum Technician and European Curator respectively) as well as Joshua Rectenwald, the Painters Assistant at the Cincinnati Art Museum to share their insights about the colors we see in art museums. 
To start us off, what are some of your favorite or least favorite colors you have used in your museum?
JM:  My favorites are Raisin Torte in Gallery 17, Pumpkin Blush in Gallery 20 and Cork in Gallery 18 and 16. The color we used for the Picasso, Miró, Calder exhibition reads as much more blue than I expected when looking at the samples.  It’s vital to pick colors under gallery lighting-there are HUGE variations when they’re seen in the fluorescent/incandescent lighting of the offices, for example.
AM: I know this seems like a cop out, but I think the colors we choose are all successful.  Color choices for exhibits endure a lengthy decision process before they are selected.  I trust this process.  Some colors sing with the art a little better than others, but that’s life.
How much does wall color affect an exhibition?
AM: Ideally, it shouldn’t affect it at all.  Practically, it helps support a sense of cohesion.  Exhibition wall colors can also help the viewer organize information and make connections.
JR: Wall color can have drastic affects on exhibitions.  In general, paint determines the overall mood of the gallery space.  Lighter colors present a more casual and lively environment while darker colors tend to create a more solemn and serious experience.  Color can also be used to break up different sections of an exhibit, thus clarifying and making it easier to navigate.
JM: I think the wall color affects an exhibition quite a bit…or more accurately, things like wall color and lighting affect people’s perception of an exhibition.  The pictures are the pictures, but I do think there are better and worse ways of seeing them. 
What else should we know about painting the walls of a Museum?
AM: Clean up sucks.  Paint buckets, brushes, rollers, various utensils, etc.  It’s not necessarily difficult work, just time consuming.
JR: My favorite part of the installation process is actually peeling and scraping all the vinyl off the wall.  It feels like I’m erasing the former exhibition. But if there was one thing I would say about paint colors it would be that no one sees eye to eye on them.  I get this all the time when I’m painting a gallery.  I’ll have people ask for the name of the paint and tell me that they really like the color, and then the other half I talk to think that the color choice looks terrible.  So I guess you can’t win.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

California Cool

Although it's right there in the lobby when you enter the museum, some of our visitors miss the rotating Collections in Context installation. The principal of the installation is simple: every few months we choose a newly acquired object—something that has entered the collection by gift or by purchase within the past six months—and we hang it alongside an object (or a group of objects) that has been at SDMA for a number of years. By offering a context in which to test visual relationships between new acquisitions and objects long-held by the Museum, Collections in Context presents the daily practice of museum work to visitors.
Last week, we reinstalled the latest installment, which focuses on the recently acquired Balls, #16, painted in 1964 by Oskar Fischinger (1900-1967).

Fischinger, who had fled his native Germany with the Nazi rise to power, settled in California in the late 1930s. He is best known as a filmmaker, and particularly for his pioneering works in an abstract, non-figurative mode. In Hollywood, he attracted the attention of Orson Welles and assisted with Walt Disney’s Fantasia. He nonetheless continued to have difficulties in finding an audience for non-figurative films, and during the last two decades of his life devoted himself to painting, pursuing the types of abstraction he employed previously in his films.

Fischinger's geometric paintings find many parallels in the work of other California-based artists of the time, among them Karl Stanley Benjamin. In 1959, Los Angeles Times art critic Jules Langsner coined the term “Hard-Edge Painting” to describe the work of these California painters. Partly a reaction against Abstract Expressionism, Hard-Edge Painting emphasized angular lines, reduced forms, precise surfaces, and rich colors.

In the current installation, we've paired Fischinger's painting with an untitled work by Karl Benjamin, which was painted in 1957 and acquired by the Museum of Art in 1958.

Finally, Colorforms in Colorspace #12, a painting of 1948 by John Sennhauser, rounds out the installation. Sennhauser was based in New York when he painted the canvas, but he later settled in Escondido, and this is one of a group of his works that came to the Museum of Art after his death.

In all, it's a miniature of exhibition of just three works, but one that really encapsulates the aesthetic of mid-century Modernism in California and beyond.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Art of Collecting: Event Wrap Up

On November 12 Members of The Gallery met up in La Jolla for The Art of Collecting.

Owners Joseph Bellows and Ron Stevenson did a fantastic job of welcoming guests to their galleries and "back rooms" for private viewings of their art storage and presentation areas.

This experience sparked a new dialogue for several collectors who took the opportunity to explore works currently NOT on view, by artists they are interested in learning more about.

Post tour, guests noshed on more fine food (and imbibed in more fine wine) before embarking on a lively discussion with John Marciari , Curator for European Art and Katy McDonald, Deputy Director for External Affairs. The conversation generated a host of questions from "can you negotiate a deal?" to "how do you know the dealer is reputable?" to "what should you buy?".

Number one, buy what you love--and visit Museums and galleries to learn and determine what it is that moves you. Marciari responded to questions on reputation and trust, indicating that you should ask other collectors and other gallery owners for feedback, if a certain dealer seems questionable. Look for dealers with a solid history. On this, and negotiations for price, Bellows implored the importance of viewing the process as a "relationship" and not as a "transaction".

On the question of forgeries and fakes, Marciari encouraged everyone to have confidence in their quest for more information--"don't be afraid to reach out to a specialist in the area of art you are passionate about."

Finally, sign up for gallery mailing lists to receive invitations to opening events. Visiting local galleries is an important part of your art education and one of the many ways to support artists in our community.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Discovering Rosalba Carriera

Here’s a story about one of the “new” works on view in the recently reinstalled European Art gallery at the Museum.

A few months ago, one of our registrars came to my office and handed me a quick index photograph (there it is at left) she’d just taken of a work that turned up during an inventory of one of the store rooms. The work, attributed to Rosalba Carriera, was acquired in 1949 but no one could recall ever having seen it on public view.

My first thought: Wow. That looks like the real thing.

Rosalba Carriera was one of the most highly-sought portraitists in eighteenth-century Italy, second in popularity only to Pompeo Batoni (whose portrait of Etienne-Reneé Potier de Gesvres hangs in the recently reinstalled gallery). Rosalba’s particular specialty was the portrait in pastels, and she had few equals in that medium. The portrait of a woman had all the benchmarks of her style, and having been little-exhibited, it seemed – even in the photograph – remarkably fresh. Rosalba is a special artist; the Getty has just acquired a pastel portrait by her.

But then I had my second thought: Oh no. The Frame.

The frame is unmistakably that of the royal collection in Dresden. Once you’ve seen a group of them, you can’t miss them. And the problem with the frame was that at the outbreak of World War II, the Dresden collections were dispersed for safekeeping, and many works never made it back to the museum when the war ended. The Dresden Museum has a major provenance research project underway in an effort to locate all the looted treasures.

Born and trained in Italy, Rosalba had spent years working at the court in Dresden, and the largest collection of her pastel portraits is in the museum there. This seemed to be a vote in favor of the San Diego portrait’s authenticity. The bad news, though, is that I was afraid that just as we’d rediscovered a great work, we might have to send it back to Dresden.

So let the research begin: I quickly discovered in our curatorial files that the dealer who sold us the work wrote in 1948 that he got it through an “exchange with the Dresden Museum, about 18 years ago.” (The dealer was Jacob Heimann, of New York and Los Angeles – and if anyone has more information about him, please let me know). I’ll admit I was deeply skeptical.

I went back to the old catalogues of the Dresden collection. The 1899 and 1905 catalogues list 156 pastels, but only 109 are in the catalogues published since 1929, with no reference to the missing 47.

At this point, I wrote to Andreas Henning, the Curator in Dresden. I explained that I was doing “a bit of research on Rosalba, and that I was curious about the pastels missing from later editions of their catalogue.” (This was a bit evasive, I’ll admit it.) Andreas explained that yes, some of the Rosalba pastels had been missing since before the war, but earlier in the century, Dresden’s then-director Hans Posse “exchanged” some with dealers in an attempt to acquire contemporary art.

We then went through the old catalogue lists, and we found one pastel described as a “Portrait nearly front view, dark grey background. Brown eyes; flowers in the gray hair; brown, multicolored flowered dress with a décolletée. The right hand at the breast.” This seemed to match. It was number 88 in the old catalogue, and it had been sold back in 1924 in exchange of a painting by Wilhelm Trübner.

At this point, I went back into storage and opened up the frame. There, on the back of the old stretcher supporting the pastel, was a most welcome sight: the number 88. Case closed. Not only had we confirmed its provenance, we’d also established that it had been sold by Dresden, and that we would not have to send it back.

And it’s now on the wall in San Diego, for the first time in decades. But pastels are delicate, and after a few months, we’ll return it to a nice dark corner of the storeroom to preserve it.
Come see it while you have the chance.

John Marciari
Curator of European Art
Head of Provenance Research

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Art of Collecting

Image via Joseph Bellows Gallery:
012, Edward White Spacewalking Above the Texas Coastline, Gemini 4, June 3, 1965, digital c-print, 24.5 x 24.5 inches

Tonight The Gallery is privy to its first off site members only event, held at the Joseph Bellows and R.B. Stevenson Galleries in La Jolla. Making sure to create a lively experience, we have created an itinerary of social connecting, gallery FAQs and behind the scenes walkthroughs. In preparation for the event we have enlisted a goodly amount of wine and some comfortable seats for our favorite fashionistas. If you are not a member (call (619) 696-1918 to join!), or cannot attend tonight's event, I've put together some of the questions that will shape our conversation with the curators and gallery owners. In addition, there are some great resources on line that revolve around this very topic: How to Start an Art Collection.

Image via R.B. Stevenson Gallery: Old Rembrandt, acrylic on interference, 12 x 14 1/2 in, 2004

Questions for The Art of Collecting

How do you start a collection?

What art should you buy?

How do you know which dealers/galleries are reputable?

I don’t know what art I like…where do I start?

What are the top collectors asking or looking for from a Gallery owner?

What is the most common question asked by a new collector?

How does a gallery differ from an auction house?

Why buy art? Why not just support your local Museums?


Apartment Therapy is one of my favorite design inspiration web/blog sites...they broke it down simply here. BUY WHAT YOU LOVE!

I found this interesting piece via The Harbus, a publication from the independent student weekly for the Harvard Business School. It offers an overview of a panel discussion (2006) with a variety of thoughts from artist to gallery owner, professor to professional.

This article is written from a gallery owner's perspective--Sylvia White...
1. Educate your eye
2. Establish your budget
3. Determine your goals
4. Become a responsible collector
The author also shares her insight on "the ideal gallery" here.

Stay tuned for more on this topic after tonight's fabulous event.

-Sarah Beckman, Associate Director of Development

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Calder Jewelry, and the Calder Headboard

A Calder-Guggenheim Story

Picasso's friend and biographer John Richardson was here last week to deliver the Axline Lecture. Over the days he was here, we spent a lot of time wandering around the galleries together, and I spent a lot of time soaking in all the great stories he told. Here's one of them.

As we wandered through the Calder Jewelry exhibition, John saw the large photograph of Peggy Guggenheim wearing a pair of Calder earrings. He recalled that Peggy Guggenheim was a great fan of Calder and that in addition to all the jewelry she owned, she also commissioned Calder to make a bed headboard for her. This was very similar to the jewelry: made of twisted wire in abstract and animal shapes, with moving parts. It still exists and is on view at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, where it is exhibited in the room that used to be her bedroom.

What isn't usually part of the story told about the headboard, though, is that Peggy Guggenheim didn't like it. Why, one asks? Apparently, when things began to heat up in the bedroom (a not infrequent event if one believes the rumors about her love life), the headboard's movable metal parts created too much of a racket.

-John Marciari, Curator of European Art

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Video Killed the Radio Star

By Alexander Jarman, Public Programs Manager

Nope, its not a blog posting about the Buggles or their amazing track from 1979. This is however, a posting about film, video and art. Tomorrow night, Monday, we are having an incredible lecture here at the Museum by Neil Kendricks. He will begin by presenting three very short films by Stan Brakhage, an avant-garde filmmaker whose works we have in our permanent collection. Then Neil's going to show you how Brakhage's works from the 1960's would impact the next generation of short format filmmakers who would go on to make music videos.

Brakhage's films are beautiful but also interesting to dissect technically. This guy would tape, collage and paint on top of and scratch directly into film in order to achieve different effects (the above picture is an example of Brakhage taping natural materials onto his filmstrips). Often when you watch one of his films you are really witnessing a moving painting. But you'll want to stick around for the music videos and short films by Floria Sigismondi, Chris Marker and Mark Romanek (he did the Nine Inch Nails music video, Closer).

This is going to be one of our best lectures this fall and I hope all of you will be able to come by the Museum for it.

Guest Lecture Series

Neil Kendricks: Brakhage and Beyond

Monday, October 19, 7:00 p.m.

James S. Copley Auditorium

$12 members/$15 nonmembers/$7 students

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Installing Now: American Artists from the Russian Empire

Next up at the Museum of Art: American Artists from the Russian Empire. We're installing the show this week, and it opens on October 24th. America is a melting pot, of course, and so is American Art... or, to use another cliche: this exhibition explores the Russian slice of the American pie. The exhibition explores the work of Russian immigrants and ranges from the social realism of artists like David Burliuk or Ben Shahn to the European-styled modernism of Max Weber, Archipenko, Lipchitz, and Gorky; from the surrealism of Pavel Tchelitchew on to the hard-edged modernism of Bolotowsky and Louise Nevelson. The culminating note of the exhibition is the group of five paintings by Mark Rothko, beginning with a figurative work of the 1930s (signed with his original name, "Rothkowitz") and continuing on to two of his classic color-field paintings of the 50s. That alone would merit the price of admission (although of course if you've signed up and joined The Gallery you have unlimited admission), but beyond Rothko, there are fascinating glimpses of the closely-knit Russian artist community in New York (note the portraits by and of Burliuk, Soyer, Nina Schick, and Nicholas Roerich), or of the broader development of minimalism and of color-field painting (two large color-field canvases by Jules Olitsky hang near those by Rothko).
American Artists from Russia will also be the featured exhibition at our next Culture and Cocktails on October 29th. For details about a special tour of the exhibition in the hour before Culture and Cocktails begins, see our webpage.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Calder in Context

Coming up this Saturday, October 10th, at 2 PM...
Calder in Context: A Multisensory Exhibition Walkthrough
Join a curator, an actor, and a jazz saxophonist for an exhibition walkthrough of Calder Jewelry. Participants will learn about the influence Calder had on contemporary jewelry designers and discover how poetry and jazz influenced his own work. Listen to excerpts from Calder’s diary, hear live jazz from the 1940s and 1950s, and see one-of-a-kind, handmade jewelry from one of the twentieth century’s most important artists.
The program is free for those who have paid Museum admission, and of course, those who join The Gallery get unlimited Museum admission for two adults as part of their membership benefits.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Touched by Art

It only makes sense for me to share a follow up post to the recent "Please Don't Lick the Art" issue with this gem from the ONION.
Struggling Museum Now Allowing Patrons to Touch Paintings has now been crowned my top favorite Onion article of all time (well, it's probably a three-way tie). Museum humor? Maybe. Worth sharing? Most definitely.
Museum officials confirmed that many new visitors have given donations to the museum to get special member benefits, such as being allowed to remove works of art from the walls and sit down with them while enjoying food or drinks in the café. {Excerpt from the ONION}
Okay, we're all down with the rules: no food or drink in the galleries, don't touch the art, no umbrellas, no sharp sticks, check your bag, no photos, no video, no pens...Perhaps it's time to consider the things we CAN do in a Museum. Ponder. Discuss. Hum. Sketch. Hold hands. Meditate. Study. Learn. Create. Listen. Make art. Meet people. Laugh. Discover. Think...

-Sarah Beckman, Associate Director of Development at The San Diego Museum of Art

Friday, September 25, 2009

Art Bite: Museum Day

Smithsonian Magazine’s Museum Day is this Saturday, September 26th. And no, you don’t have to travel to Washington D.C. to take part. San Diego has plenty to offer, with more than 10 affiliate organizations. All you have to do is click HERE to receive your free Museum Day Admission Card.

When presented, this card provides you with FREE admission to any of the following: San Diego Air & Space Museum, Mingei International Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego Natural History Museum, Museum of San Diego History, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, Birch Aquarium, Quail Botanical Gardens, Museum of Making Music, San Diego Archaeological Center, California Cener for the Arts Escondido Museum and the Oceanside Museum of Art.

With the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., being free year ‘round, this offers you a taste of what it would be like if a grand endowment fell from the sky to support San Diego’s many museums being free. While The San Diego Museum of Art is not part of this program, this is a perfect opportunity to see what other museums in San Diego are up to. Enjoy!

- Keith York, Co-chair of The Gallery

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fantasia: A blending of visual art and music in 1940 and 2009

My initial recollection of Fantasia involves Mickey Mouse panicking amid an army of brooms that are inducing an artificial flood, until the Mouse’s master casts a spell to quell the impending catastrophe. Walt Disney’s 1940 feature film actually involves quite a bit more than Mickey Mouse, who only appears on screen for about 9 minutes. The movie contains a soundtrack that includes the likes of Bach, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky and Beethoven, just to name a few. It is fitting then that our upcoming season of Art of Èlan is entitled Fantasia.

What the heck is Art of Èlan? This is our program of classical chamber music, programmed by Kate Hatmaker and Demarre McGill, the artistic directors of A of È. Each season, Kate and Demarre go around the Museum, scour the galleries, look through the permanent collection catalogue and find works of art that inspire a specific program of classical music. These concerts are perfect for either the seasoned or novice classical concert goer, as the music is always inspiring and each concert is held to just one hour long. And then there’s the setting- SDMA’s Hibben Gallery. With only 125 seats and some top-notch works of European painting on the walls, the Hibben Gallery is an intimate and beautiful space to watch a concert in. The musicians perform right in the middle of the room, so there is never a bad seat. Our first concert of the year will be next Tuesday, September 29th at 7p.m. and I encourage all of you to come to the Museum and witness how classical music can move you.

For more info call 619.696.1978 or email ajarman@sdmart.org

- Alexander Jarman, SDMA Public Programs Manager

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

After Abstraction, Then What?

I can't resist this one. Have a look at Tyler Green's latest post. He notes how abstract art has become so much a part of the mainstream that it's even being used to decorate the new Cowboys Stadium. Al Roker is covering it on TV, and football fans in Dallas are happily tweeting and flickring about it.

Which, for me, begs the question: if abstraction is now the favored flavor of the American masses, what will the new cool be?

-John Marciari, Curator of European Art at the San Diego Museum of Art

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Gallery has Launched

(L-R) Scott Dunklee, Keith York (Co-Chair),
Kimberly Primerano (Member Chair), Sam Dychter (Co-Chair)

I'm thrilled to share that The San Diego Museum of Art's newest group for adventures in art & culture is off the ground. Last Thursday, September 10, The Gallery Steering Committee welcomed a bevy of new bodies to the Museum for fine Spanish wine and tapas to celebrate two current exhibitions of modern masterpieces: Picasso, Miró, Calder and Calder Jewelry. The group was greeted by Deputy Director Katy McDonald, and guests toured the galleries with local curatorial celebs John Marciari and Julia Marciari-Alexander. Flamenco guitar and dance performances by Arte y Pureza highlighted the evening’s theme.

The event was generously underwritten by Steering Committee members Scott Dunklee, Sam Dychter, Keith York, and Kimberly Primerano. Other Gallery members in attendance included Alexis Julicher (Steering Committee Member), Tom Gildred (Trustee Liaison), Jill Larson (Trustee), Christine de Pagter, Brandon McCulley, Brenda Phillips, Jessica Hanson York, Patti Testerman, Elisabeth Dantcher, Antoinette Lipman, Sumi Barton, Grace Duvall, Loretta Schroeder and Mark Chavez, and Steffanie Dotson.

Guests ponied up to the membership bar and signed on for a year of exclusive benefits and great new art experiences offered by the Museum. Next up, Culture & Cocktails—this is art for all, people. Following C&C is November’s “Collecting 101” where Gallery members are treated to a private reception at a local art gallery. Are you ready? Sign up. Call Jennifer Gilderman at (619) 696-1918 or email thegallery@sdmart.org

- Sarah Beckman, Associate Director of Development, The San Diego Museum of Art

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Art Bite: Double Header at L Street

This weekend there is only one event to mark in indelible ink on your calendar. L Street Fine Art will host the third annual San Diego Art Prize Exhibition. This year’s show, Double Header, features the works of San Diego’s Richard Allen Morris and Tom Driscoll.
Richard Allen Morris: My Card, 2009, Acrylic on Canvas. 24" x 18"

Richard Allen Morris’ first solo show was back in 1959 after he served in the Korean War. Since that time his Abstract Expressionist framework has translated well from oil on canvas, to assemblage and collage, and portrays wit in such disparate themes as guns and portraits. You may have come across the show (and coffee table book) Richard Allen Morris: Retrospective, 1958-2005, an exhibition of 150 paintings made over the course of his fifty-year career organized by Museum Haus Lange and shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. Richard’s work has been represented well by R.B. Stevenson Gallery in La Jolla.

Tom Driscoll : Amberjack, 2009. Cast epoxy resin, 5' x 21"x 6"

The work of local artist Tom Driscoll is rooted in San Diego’s history of gallery spaces like The Pawn Shop, 552 Gallery, Newmyer, Quint Gallery and Sumay Space. Driscoll grew up in this burgeoning art community and eventually garnered critical acclaim for his work. Best known for his cast cement and large-scale sculptures the artist is currently producing an intriguing series of cast epoxy – on view at Double Header.

Double Header is the final exhibition of the 2009 San Diego Art Prize season. The San Diego Art Prize is given annually to “established and emerging artists who have exhibited outstanding achievement in the field of visual arts.” This year’s show is sponsored by the San Diego Visual Art's Network, SanDiegoArtist.com and the Omni San Diego Hotel. The show kicks off Saturday, September 19th (and runs through November 20) with an opening reception slotted between the hours of 7-9 p.m. at 628 L Street, San Diego, CA 92101.

From Keith York, Co-Chair of The Gallery

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More Picasso (and why not?)

I've been asked a number of times whether the works by Picasso now on view in the Picasso, Miro, Calder exhibition constitute our complete holdings of Picasso's work. Simple answer: no. Although we've hung that gallery fairly densely, there are actually only 15 works by Picasso (and one by Francoise Gilot) in that room, leaving nearly 50 additional prints by Picasso still in storage.

So how did we choose? And why aren't they all always on view?
This presents the useful opportunity for clearing up one of the most frequent misconceptions about museum practice. One reads again and again how museums only have 5% or 10% of their total collection on view at any time. While every museum would like to have more gallery space, the numbers game is the wrong way to think about it. The Museum of Art, like most museums, has thousands of works on paper - prints, drawings, and photographs - and these simply cannot be on view all the time.

Returning to Picasso: we have his first major print, the Frugal Repast, on view in the exhibition. In 1913, this was issued as part of the so-called Suite des Saltimbanques, a group of 15 prints that Picasso had designed back in 1904-05. It's his first masterpiece, one of the iconic images of his early career.
The Museum has four other prints from that suite. We didn't include them all not only because we wanted to leave room for other works from across Picasso's career, but also because they didn't all stand up from the point of view of impression quality and condition. And this gets back to the other question, of why we don't leave works on paper on permanent view.

Here, for example, is the Head of a Woman in Profile, another of the prints from the Suite des Saltimbanques. Looking at it, I think that the first things you notice are 1. that the paper is darkened (i.e. burnt) and 2. that there are brown foxing spots. The condition becomes the focus, not the print. And in contrast to all those prints that we have in brilliant impressions, there seems little point to have included this in the display. It's great to have the print as part of the collection, but in an exhibition that is about showing off highlights, it just doesn't make the grade.

So what has happened to it? Why the burn? Why those spots? There is some debate as to what causes foxing, but the general consensus is that the spots are inherent defects in paper, which become more visible with exposure to air, humidity, etc. In fact, many of the impressions of this print (and of the entire suite) that come to the market have some foxing, although perhaps not to this extent. Ambrose Vollard, Picasso's dealer, chose bad paper, one that in time has shown its defects. (It was 1913 and wove paper was still relatively new, so let's not be too hard on him.) The darkening of the paper is more straightforward. It results from exposure to light at high levels or for a long time. Our print is still in the frame in which we received it, and turning it around, the "long exposure to light" comes clear. Each of those labels represents some exhibition to which it was lent (most of them, it should be noted, date to years before the print was given to the Museum). The Head of a Woman in Profile spent a lot of time in the light, and it suffered because of it. It's no surprise that the fragile paper has darkened. And this, you see, is why we don't leave this or any other print on permanent display. Multiply this case by a few thousand similar objects, and you understand why only 10% of the collection is on view at any time.

I want to end with another object not on view. The Salimbanques Suite was issued in an edition of 250. Afterwards, the copper plates were cancelled - scratched out - to prevent further impressions from being made. In addition to the scratches, this particular plate was inscribed "biffe" (scratched out, cancelled) and dated, 29 October 1913. Often, the publishers ran off a number of impressions after the cancellation, perhaps to reassure buyers that their prints really were from a limited edition. The cancelled-plate impressions, however, have eventually become collector's objects in their own right. That's a bit of a long and complicated story to tell in a wall label, and it would have distracted from the main thrust of Picasso, Miro, Calder. It's really something more for a general "History of the Print" exhibition. But after bringing up the Head of a Woman in Profile, I couldn't resist showing the cancelled-plate impression as well. Print-collecting curiosity aside, this impression hasn't been too often exhibited, so despite the scratches, it gives a much better sense of what the print is meant to look like.

-John Marciari, Curator of European Art at the San Diego Museum of Art

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Rules: "Please Don't Lick the Art"

Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Portrait of Catherine Coustard (1673-1728), Marquise of Castelnau, Wife of Charles-Léonor Aubry (1667-1735) with her Son Léonor (1695-1770)

Nicolas de Largillière c.1699

This really takes passion for the arts to a new level. Recently on rounds at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, museum guard Tim Piowtrowski discovered a young patron deeply enamored with a 17th-century portrait of the French aristocrat Catherine Coustard. The young gal was so taken by the rich blue gown that the guard actually had to say, "Please don't lick the art."

I've visited a number of museums myself, with two young boys in tow. Even at our own Museum I've made a mad dash to save a Matta Matta Clark installation from the happy feet of a 4 year old and we've been warned by the guards not to touch the Buddha. God how embarrassing! To this day, I can safely say my children have not gone so far as to lick the art. I can't say they haven't been tempted though...

To celebrate this lovely anecdote MIA has come out with T-shirts bearing this phrase, for $22.50. Ahhh capitalism.

From Sarah Beckman, mother of art-loving twins and Associate Director of Development at The San Diego Museum of Art.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Art Bite: Beyond the Border

Just a quick bite this week...featuring 40 established and emerging contemporary artists, Beyond the Border International Contemporary Art Fair is a haute art pick for this holiday weekend. Hurry though...ends on Friday at 6 PM.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Random Rembrandt Story

A Quick Post from John Marciari, Curator of European Art at the Museum.

In preparation for our upcoming exhibition From Rembrandt's Studio: The Prints of Ferdinand Bol, I've been reading Catherine Scallen's Rembrandt, Reputation, and the Practice of Connoisseurship. One amusing thing mentioned in the Introduction: in 1851, Delacroix wrote in his diary that "someday, perhaps, Rembrandt would be seen as the equal of Raphael." This is a pretty good lesson in how radically tastes change: 150 years later, it would be hard to find many people who would rather see a Raphael than a Rembrandt.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Image via 20X200-more on this later!

I am a museumgoer. And yes, that is an actual word: Museumgoer. All mashed into in one and defined as one who goes to museums. While a number of people I know are “museumgoers,” a hearty number of them do not venture into museums in their own city. It seems we reserve our cultural adventures for vacations. Sigh.

Insert true confession: Not only am I a museumgoer, I am a museum professional.

I grew up visiting museums and galleries. The famed contemporary art leader The Walker, is still one of my favorite destinations and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is an incredible source of inspiration. Who does not love The Art Institute of Chicago, MoMA, The Met, the Louvre? I make it a point to plan my travel experiences around cultural destinations and great food. Why don’t we do that at home? It’s an easy sell to get your friends gathered at new restaurant, but why is it such a tough pitch in San Diego to meet for a gallery opening or to see a new exhibition?

I challenge you to look at our fine city in a new way. Consider visiting The San Diego Museum of Art (this is YOUR Museum) for a view of incredible works of art. You might be surprised at the collection’s diversity, at how frequently objects are rotated, and that so many incredible exhibitions presented at the Museum are exclusive West Coast venues (take that L.A.!). Don’t stop there either—try on these other fine gems in Balboa Park—the Timken (FREE all the time!), MoPA (photography), and the Mingei (“art of the people”).

Please do not wait until you are asked to chaperone the third grade class field trip or until your mom begs to see Monet. Visit today. Your Museum is a place for conversation, for inquiry, for inspiration. While you may be asked to check your bag, you will not be shushed. Enjoy it, experience it, and support it.

Blogging on the role of museumgoer is museum professional Sarah Beckman, Associate Director of Development at The San Diego Museum of Art.

Art Bite: This Weekend

Image from Mod Swap

Saturday Night

Art of Photography Show at the Lyceum Theatre

Photographer Steven Churchill is on deck again. He has been organizing “The Art of Photography Show” annually since 2004. This year’s exhibition begins with the Opening Reception Gala on Saturday, August 29 from 6-9. Be sure to attend the opening and nab your complimentary copy of the show’s 80-page catalog with a forward written by Charlotte Cotton, Curator and Head of the Photography Department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). http://artofphotographyshow.com.


Mod Swap in Little Italy

For those into post-war art and craft, the trio of collectors and sellers known as ObjectsUSA.com branch out of their normal online retail space and quarterly gallery shows to bring art, furniture and craft objects to the public – at a swap meet price. The open market “Mod Swap” returns for its sophomore outing on Sunday, August 30th from 10am to 1pm in the parking lot on the corner of Kettner and Kalmia (in Little Italy in front of Klassik and Jett). Bring an item to sell, or trade, or your wallet for “Eames Era” items up for grabs at low, low prices. www.objectsusa.com

Next Thursday

Beyond the Borders International Contemporary Art Fair at the Grand Del Mar

San Diego’s first BTB ICAF will feature over 500 works of ‘investment grade art’ by both established and emerging artists for 3 days beginning next Thursday. This new art fair is yet another sign of San Diego’s growing art scene and is worth taking a chance on.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Photography Matters at the San Diego Museum of Art

In just 11 short days, our exhibition of Richard Avedon’s photographs, Portraits of Power, will be closing. It will be hard for me to say goodbye to those large format works exploring every part of the grey scale. Avedon gets his subjects to wear their hearts on their sleeves and I am definitely going to go for one last look at all the lines, creases, cracks, wrinkles, visible disappointments and palpable emotion expressed in his sitters’ faces before September 6. But I’m also going to make sure to view our other photography exhibition, Unerring Eye: Recent Gifts of Photography from Joseph and Elaine Monsen, which also closes on September 6. This show is in one of the most often overlooked spaces at the Museum-Gallery 6. On the first floor, behind the staircase, in between the restrooms and probably under your radar, Gallery 6 is devoted to displaying small exhibitions of photography from the permanent collection and local collections. Unerring Eye features work by Kenro Izu, Anne Hamilton, Joe Deal and other important modern and contemporary photographers.

Which brings me to one of my favorite contemporary photographers-Jason Evans. Usually a day does not pass by without me checking out The Daily Nice, Evans’ project that exists only in the non-space of the Internet at www.thedailynice.com. Evans loads a single photograph onto the website each day. None of the photographs are ever archived and exist for a mere 24-hour period before they are replaced by the successive image. Each post is a snapshot, an entry in Evans’ visual diary, rather than a ‘finished’ photograph. Make the site your homepage and bring a new photo into your life every day. Better yet, while you’re staring at Jason’s work, be reminded of photography at the San Diego Museum of Art. Be reminded that you have a space locally where important photography is always on view.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Portraiture and Great Art?

A post from John Marciari, Curator of European Art at the San Diego Museum of Art:

My post last week offered a few thoughts about the magic of the Giorgione portrait here in San Diego. On the heels of writing that, however, I read an article by Michael Archer that argued that Portrait art has never been more pointless. Archer's article is mainly about portraiture in contemporary art, but his view is so limited - if I were less diplomatic I might call it 'half baked and wholly objectionable' - that I can't help but return to the subject. One need only glance at the Giorgione or at the Marquis de Sofraga by Goya, another painting in San Diego that could hang in any museum anywhere in the world, to realize that there is a lot more to portraiture than Archer realizes with his interest in mere likeness and with "the figure in history."
Need one really know anything about Sofraga to be mesmerized by this picture?
Similarly, while knowledge of the back story of a figure's role in history can add to our appreciation of a photographic portrait by, say, Richard Avedon, is that knowledge really necessary to appreciate that work as great art? Our Avedon exhibition closes soon, on September 6th, but there is still time to have another look and to think not only about Avedon, but also about what makes great portraiture more generally.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Art Bite: Social Climbing and Three Decades of Contemporary Art

Welcome to Art Bite. Members of The Gallery and staff at The San Diego Museum of Art are dedicated to sharing with you select art happenings in the region. Curated by an eclectic mix of staff, artists and culture zealots, Art Bite provides you a fresh pick of the week.

Intros aside, let’s get to the juicy bits. There are two shows of contemporary art in San Diego County that deserve your attention right now: Social Climbing/Part I: on the Move, at Seminal Projects in Little Italy, and Quint: Three Decades of Contemporary Art at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. Both exhibitions offer a wide range of media, concept and vision. Social Climbing features (mainly) emerging artists and Three Decades of Contemporary Art serves as a retrospective of established artists exhibited at Quint Contemporary Art in La Jolla.


Army of One (1984)


Digital C-print

24 x 29 inches

Edition 1 of 3

Untitled 4
29 x 25 inches, framed

Every Man a King But No One Wears a Crow
High intensity sheeting on aluminum
84 x 36 inches

Social Climbing demonstrates the breadth of media currently utilized in visual art, from new media interactives to sculptures made from materials like masking tape, filing cabinets and cardboard. Luis de Jesus, owner of Seminal Projects, has borrowed a page from Paula Cooper, who is known for rearranging the art on view in her NYC gallery during the run of an exhibition. Similarly, de Jesus will be switching around the art in Social Climbing on any given day.

August 8 - September 26, 2009

Gary Lang, Future Circles
1998, acrylic on canvas, unique, 113" diameter

Collection of Michael Krichman and Carmen Cuenca © Gary Lang
Photo courtesy of Quint Contemporary Art

Quint: Three Decades of Contemporary Art
provides a special opportunity to view outstanding examples of painting from private collections and museums from our region. Showcasing regional, national and international artists like Roman de Salvo, Jean Lowe, Mel Bochner, Ryan McGinness and Gary Lang, this is a rich survey of the work that gallery owner Mark Quint has cultivated for more than 30 years.

Ryan McGinness, The True Knowledge of Things, 2007.
acrylic on canvas, unique, 96&quotx96" Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
© Ryan McGinness Studios, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Quint Contemporary Art

QUINT: Three Decades of Contemporary Art

California Center for the Arts, Escondido Museum
August 15 – December 31, 2009