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

- 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

- 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, 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.