Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Collection Close-Up: Diego Rivera’s The Hands of Dr. Moore, 1940

One of the many significant works featured in the Art of the Twentieth Century galleries at The San Diego Museum of Art is The Hands of Dr. Moore, 1940 by Diego Rivera. At first glance, the work might seem to be by the artist’s wife, Frida Kahlo, for it includes roots, an inscription on the painting, blood, and references the female form, all familiar in her work. Rivera, however, created this work at a time when he incorporated trees and/or roots in his work and delved into the realm of surrealism. André and Jacqueline Breton came to Mexico City in 1938 and having the surrealist writer in such proximity influenced Rivera. This painting also demonstrates Rivera’s interest in the depiction of human hands, which he exhibited in several portraits, perhaps most notably in a portrait of his ex-wife Lupe Marín from 1938. The unconventional portrait of Dr. Clarence Moore in The San Diego Museum of Art reveals a fascinating story with local connections.

On May 20, 1940, Rivera delivered the completed portrait of Dr. Moore to the Hotel Reforma in Mexico City and received a payment of $650; the cancelled check, seen above, later came to the Museum with the painting. (The Mexican painter had a history with this hotel, having been commissioned in 1936 Rivera to create a mural there. He also often created portraits as a source of income. )

Who, though, was Ellis Moore, who signed the check? Ellis Moon, originally from San Jose, California, married Claus Spreckels and the newlyweds were subsequently given a home in Coronado, California as a wedding gift from the groom’s father, John D. Spreckels. The Spreckels Family owned local newspapers, a ferry company, and the Hotel del Coronado, among many other businesses. Ellis and Claus had four children and were highly regarded in San Diego social circles. In addition to businesses and their social standing, the family’s philanthropy is recognizable today in San Diego in the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park and the Reading Room at the Coronado Public Library, both generous gifts of the Spreckels Family.

After Claus Spreckels died, Ellis remarried Dr. Clarence Moore of Los Angeles in 1936. The announcement of their engagement made front page news in the San Diego Union on October 14 of that year. Moore was a well-known surgeon and the couple maintained residences in Coronado and in Los Angeles.

Several years later, the couple travelled to Mexico and commissioned the portrait. The accompanying photographs show Dr. Moore posing in Rivera’s studio. By coincidence, The San Diego Museum of Art’s other Rivera painting, La Mandrágora, 1939, can also be seen in the background, behind Dr. Moore.


Amy Galpin
Project Curator for American Art

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

International Ask A Curator Day, Continued

More of today's questions answered by John Marciari, Curator of European Art and Head of Provenance Research at the San Diego Museum of Art
How often does –should?- a curator walk through the galleries and interact with the public once an exhibition has opened?
John: I try to walk through all of my galleries, both the permanent collection galleries and those of temporary exhibitions for which I am responsible, every day. If something has happened to a work of art, the curator is most likely to spot it, so this is a good practice. It is also instructive (and occasionally amusing, and sometimes humbling) to hear what people say as they move through the galleries, so I sometimes will just sit on a bench and try to blend in. I don't necessarily interact with the visitors every day, but if someone seems to be confused or to have a particular question, I'll try to help out.

Will it be a good idea to create an exhibition of art especially for children?
John: This is a tricky one. On the one hand, the San Diego Museum of Art has since its beginning in 1926 had a biennial Young Art exhibition, in which works by students from grades K-12 are selected for display at the museum: this is an important contribution to local arts education and it introduces many local children to the Museum. So we're committed to programming and education for children. On the other hand, to plan a traditional travelling exhibition solely for children seems to me a bit narrowly focused. I'd say that a show like Heroes (which has been on view through the summer but closes after Labor Day) could be of equal interest to children or adults. That's a better use of resources.

Any curator: If you weren't a curator, what would be your other career choice? 
John: The obvious alternate career for most curators would be university professor. I, for one, have no desire to change.


What made you decide to become a curator?
John: I grew up around paint and paintings, not so much because I went to museums, but in a more unusual way. As a young man, my father had worked for Bocour Artist Colors, one of the main producers in the US of artist paints, and he became great friends with Sam Golden, who was the great creative genius at Bocour: Sam was, for example, essentially the man who invented acrylic paint for artists. When Sam retired (for the first time - this is before he founded Golden Artist Colors a decade later), he moved to a farm in upstate New York where I spent many many weekends as a child. Sam and his wife Adele were like an extra set of grandparents to me. He was always telling stories about paint and painters (Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler, et al.) and as a result, I became interested in art. I took painting lessons for years when I was young (although no, I don't paint any longer). Later on, I went to college and became interested in European history (my undergraduate degree is in Classics), and then realized that I could combine that interest with the paintings by getting my doctorate in the history of art. Because I was always interested in paintings as physical objects-and for this I credit Sam and all those years of hearing about paint- I gravitated not to the university professorship that was the most obvious career path, but instead to curatorship, where I would always have the objects themselves as my primary focus. As I said in response to a question earlier today, there is nothing I'd rather be doing.
What piece of art defines your museum?
John: Our “defining piece of art” (if a museum can have one, or only one) is the great Still Life by Sanchez-Cotan. It's a masterpiece of still life painting and the best known work in the collection. It can stand as a symbol of our rich collection of old masters, particularly by Spanish and Italian artists.


Do you show work of up-and-coming artists, ones on the east coast?
The Museum of Art serves as the encyclopedic museum for the San Diego region, and this includes shows by contemporary artists, including younger artists - although in the latter case, we're more inclined to focus on those with San Diego connections. The most recent example was our exhibition of Hugo Crosthwaite - his first museum show. Hugo now lives in New York, but he spent much time in San Diego.


International Ask A Curator Day

Today (Wednesday, September 1) is “Ask a Curator” day, a worldwide “question and answer” session which will enable interested museum visitors to put questions to curators at over 300 museums around the world.
The organizers of this day are using Twitter to host “Ask a Curator”. You can find a list of participating cultural venues in the “who to ask?” section of the website, or simply follow the hashtag #askacurator to follow the questions other people are asking.

At the San Diego Museum of Art, John Marciari, Curator of European Art and Head of Provenance Research, will be fielding questions throughout the day: direct questions to him @SDMA on Twitter. Short answers will be posted on Twitter, with links to the fuller answers here.


From our Facebook page:
@Junvi Ola:
How and where private collectors acquire art pieces. Do they go to estate sales? Private art auctions? What if its a piece from another country? I'm eternally curious about this process!

John: "Private Collectors" is a pretty open-ended term, but I'm going to take it that you mean people who collect museum-quality art (i.e. art of the quality, condition, and importance that would hang on the walls of a museum). While there are a few cases of amazing finds at estate sales, those are the exception rather than the rule. Most collectors work with dealers and advisors, go to auctions (Christie's, Sotheby's, Bonham's, etc.), visit galleries, or occasionally buy directly from other collectors. If collectors buying at this level have a relationship with a museum, the curators will sometimes help advise them as well.

Export rules from other countries vary from country to country. The more important something is, the harder it will be to export it to the US. Major works, that is, would be run past a review board (which could include, for example, curators at a national museum), and they could be blocked from export.


What is the most difficult challenge for a curator? How do new technologies influence the curatorship task?

John:  This isn't a terribly romantic view of curatorship, but to be honest, one of the greatest challenges comes in reconciling ambitions and budgets. It is still relatively easy to find great works of art that we'd like to add to the collection, but harder to put together the funds necessary to acquire them. Likewise, when planning an exhibition, one needs to keep in mind the huge costs involved in bringing works from other cities or other countries together.

As for technology: new technologies (websites, Facebook, iPhone applications, etc.) allow museums to share ever more information about the collection. Wall labels offer a few bits of information, but we know much more about any object than can fit on those labels, and the new technologies can make it available to those who are interested. New technologies in the conservation lab, conversely, are giving us ever more information. See, for example,


What is your favorite piece in your museum's collection? And if I visit, where can I find it?

John: I thought that this would be a question asked today, and it's come in at least twice already. A common game curators play when visiting another museum is to ask two questions: 1. What would you take for your museum? 2. What would you take home?  The first question really boils down to this: What is the most historically significant and/or rare object, one that would be a prized addition to a museum's collection? The second question is about personal taste: what would you like to live with? Usually, these turn out to be two different objects, but in the case of the collection here in San Diego, I'd probably choose the same for both: Giorgione's Portrait of a Man. (The Venetian Renaissance is one of my particularly beloved moments in the history of art.) The panel is in our Italian Renaissance Gallery on the second floor. For an older blog post about the painting, see


Thursday, August 19, 2010

An event NOT to be missed!!!

Unforgettable Rock n' Roll Photographs

I haven't been this excited for an event in awhile - what an amazing opportunity!!! Behind the scenes tour, fabulous cocktails & food and great company with San Diego Museum of Art's The Gallery. Surely, an event NOT to be missed!!! Don't forget to RSVP for this one,

See you there,
Gallery Kim

See Elton John levitate, John Lennon in love, and Tina Turner shake it at MoPA’s stunning exhibition of rock n’ roll photographs curated by rock legend and accomplished photographer Graham Nash.

The photographs express Nash’s view on the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll music, and depicts stunning images ranging from live stage performances by Jimi Hendrix, Iggy Pop, Elvis, The Beatles, and Kurt Cobain, to intimate, behind-the-scenes moments of Johnny Cash and June Carter, Yoko Ono and John Lennon, Janis Joplin and others.

Hosted by Gallery Member Scott Dunklee.

6:00 p.m. Cocktails and appetizers catered by Alchemy
Enjoy craft cocktails and farm-to-table hors d’oeuvres from the magicians at Alchemy Restaurant (Named Best New Restaurant 2009, San Diego Magazine, and “Best Of” Issue, Rivera Magazine 2009).

Note: The first 20 Gallery members to arrive will also experience a special VIP behind-the-scenes tour of MoPA’s vault (separate from the 7:00 p.m. exhibition tour), where you’ll witness the inner workings of a fine art photography exhibition.

7:00 p.m. The private after-hours tour starts for event guests to view these astonishing, sexy, dangerous, and sometimes intimate works of art.

Post Tour: Head to the Prado for socializing and their fabulous late night happy hour.

The Details -
Wednesday, August 25
6:00 p.m. Cocktails and appetizers
7:00 p.m. The private after-hours tour

RSVP requested to

Museum of Photographic Arts (MoPA)
1649 El Prado
San Diego, CA 92101-1664

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Meet a Gallery Member - Devon Foster

Hi Everyone!
Devon Foster is one of our newest members, she's also the Marketing Manager for the San Diego Museum of Art so she's THE person to know at the museum! Ok, one of the great people that make our adventures in art possible!

Don't forget to welcome Devon to our group at our next meet-up, July 16th!

Me: What is San Diego's best kept secret?
Devon: There are so many secrets in San Diego, I don’t know which is best kept… maybe some of our hidden beaches? Or neighborhood restaurants? I also love our street fairs and farmers markets. It seems like every neighborhood has them and they always have great food, fun music, interesting tidbits to buy, and lots of friendly people.

Me: What motivates you to get out bed in the morning?
Devon: I love my job, and I swear I’m not saying that just for this blog since I work at the Museum. I work with a really amazing and diverse group of people who make work so much fun.

Me: Guilty Pleasure?
Devon: Sunbathing at the beach, reading detective/lawyer novels (James Patterson is a favorite, and right now I’m in the middle of the Millennium Trilogy), Diet Coke fountain sodas, red wine and Mexican food. Sometimes separately, sometimes all at once. :)

Me: Any fun factoids about yourself?
Devon: I am a San Diego native- I grew up in Point Loma and even went to summer camp at the Museum when I was little. I’ve been told that it’s unusual to meet locals, but I still have a close group of friends from high school and even a couple from pre-school who all live in San Diego. Other fun factoids??? I studied Dante’s Divine Comedy in Florence, Italy one summer during college and lived in Sonoma County for about a year and a half (then I had to move back to San Diego- I missed it too much!).

Me: Why did you join The Gallery?
Devon: I love the opportunities that The Gallery offers to meet local artists and curators. Hearing a curator tell the story behind the work, the installation process for an exhibition, or insight into the artist’s life really helps me appreciate the art and see it in a whole new way. I also love meeting artists and hearing about the inspiration and creative process behind their art.

Me: Favorite restaurant in San Diego?
Devon: There are so many great restaurants to choose from! My favorites are probably: Vagabond Kitchen in South Park for amazing dishes from all over the world, Cucina Urbana, Third Corner, and Sogno di Vino are perfect for a glass of wine and shareable food, Lei Lounge for interesting cocktails, George’s in La Jolla, 333 Pacific, and C Level for the views, Indigo Grill for unique dishes, and Point Loma Seafood or Northgate Market for ceviche.

Me: What is the thing you are most excited to do/learn while part of The Gallery?
Devon: Meet local artists and get to know some of the “hidden secrets” of the local arts community and meet other interesting people in the process.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Meet Gallery Member - Kim Primerano

Ok, I thought since I have been asking & will continue to ask people for their time & personal stories I thought it only fair to pony up myself. However, for the record, it seems odd to ask myself questions & even more strange to answer...

Me: What is San Diego's best kept secret?
ME: This is tough - I love the summer concerts in Balboa Park,
running on sunset cliffs, happy hours on the water. Our sunsets are amazing - I know this isn't asecret but sometimes I think as San Diegans we take them for granted.

Me: What motivates you to get out bed in the morning?
Me: My white boxer, Lily, is a pretty decent alarm clock, coffee & my running shoes.

Me: Guilty Pleasure?
ME: California Burritos from Bahia don Bravo AND Chocolate covered, almond laced, Rice Krispie treats from Zanzibar Cafe Downtown.

Me: Any fun factoids about yourself?
ME: Well...I'm a long way from home. I grew up on a farm, literally a dirt road with no neighbors & lots of animals. My "part" of the farm was to raise horses - I've delivered a foal, rescued an abused
quarter horse (Lucy) & nursed her back to good health & I barrel raced my pony, Glitter.

Me: Why did you join The Gallery?
ME: I need to get involved with something outside of my comfort zone. This probably sounds silly but the last time I remember thinking about art was college & that, I'm afraid, was too long ago.

Me: Favorite restaurant in San Diego?
ME: Oh, I love food so this is tough too! The Mission in East Village has THE BEST French Toast you will ever have!
I also love sitting outside at El Vitral, under the white lights & stars during a ballgame. The food is awesome & it's just so romantic!

Me: What is the thing you are most excited to do/learn while part of The Gallery?
ME: I'm excited about the collaborative stuff we have going on around town - I just think it's a really cool thing when establishments like the San Diego Museum of Art get involved with young & upcoming artists & art collectives.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer Nights at the Museum

For me, there is something extraordinary about being at a Museum at night. Perhaps it is because my earliest memories of being at any museum occurred during the day: school trips or when my parents would take me across the bridge to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from our native New Jersey.

Something special is happening at the San Diego Museum of Art on Thursday nights. It has enlivened our staff and I have no doubt that it will quickly engage our entire San Diego community. The Museum is now open from 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays during the summer. These enhanced hours do not only feature exhibitions, but also offer an opportunity to celebrate the dynamic abilities of local contemporary artists such as Zac Monday, Alida Cervantes, Brian Dick, Judith Pedroza, and May-Ling Martínez. These talented artists are bringing fresh and important work center stage.

I love being at museums after hours. I relish day trips to Los Angeles and beat the traffic on the way back by spending a few hours at LACMA before zipping home on the freeway. After many trips to London, there is nothing more special than the first Friday night I closed down the Tate Modern along with many fellow visitors to the city. Moreover, after spending eight years in Chicago, some of my favorite memories of the city are due to late nights at the Museum of Contemporary Art or at the Art Institute.

Recently, after a Saturday in L.A. I roamed the galleries at LACMA and found myself staring at a Stuart Davis painting. A young guy with larger-than-life headphones came up to me and said, “Do you like this painting?” After an emphatic response of “Yes,” this twenty-something gentleman said to me “Me too, but my friends don’t get it.” My only answer was “It only matters that you like it.” That is so true of art— if it means something to you, than that is what matters most.

Come and check out what is happening at the San Diego Museum of Art on Thursday nights, I think you will like it.

Above image: Zac Monday, Dead and Gone, 2010, in situ for one evening within the exhibition Mannered Bodies: European Prints of the Later Renaissance as part of the Summer Salon Series

Friday, May 28, 2010

Another Curatorial Trip

by Ariel Plotek, Assistant Curator at the Museum of Art

I went to graduate school at NYU, but hadn’t been back to the city in over a year, so a recent courier trip to NY was a homecoming of sorts. The courier trip is a funny feature of the life curatorial. It comes as a surprise to most to learn that works from the collection don’t travel alone. Indeed, every crate—whether onboard a commercial flight to London or a climate-controlled truck to Los Angeles—makes the trip with a courier, usually a curator or registrar who follows the work each step of the way. On this particular occasion I was overseeing the return leg of a loan, from JFK to LAX, and on to San Diego. I had, however, flown out a few days early—time to do some research, see the shows and catch-up with colleagues. It was a particularly good time for art in NYC: gallery week in Chelsea (including the opening of bad-boy Nate Lowman’s latest at Andrea Rosen), two major shows (Marina Abramovic and William Kentridge) at MoMA, the much-publicized (and unfortunately named) Skin-Fruit: Selections from the Dakis Joannou Collection (curated by Jeff Koons) at the New Museum, a specially good Whitney Biennial, and the opening of the New York Photo Festival in DUMBO. The trip’s real treat, however, came as something of a surprise: a knock-out Otto Dix show at the Neue Galerie on Fifth Avenue. Working on Toulouse-Lautrec’s Paris (opening July 10), depictions of prostitutes have been much on my mind, and no one does the dark side of decadence quite like Dix. No less harrowing than his depictions of the trenches, Dix’s portraits of soldiers on leave in the cabarets and bordellos of a Weimar noir are haunting and hair-raising momento mori. Speaking of which, I was greeted at the Rubin Museum (where I supervised the de-installation and crating of our three loans) by the bluntly titled exhibition Remember That You Will Die, a selection of vanitas subjects from East and West designed to give pause. Still much on my mind as I boarded the plane the next day, happy to touch-down safe and sound six hours later in sunny CA.
..and the photo? Me, interrupting a photo shoot at the Chelsea Hotel.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Meet Gallery Member - Sam Dychter!

Hi Everyone!

Meet Sam, he's a San Diego native and a long time member/donor of the museum. He has a great

passion for San Diego and specifically for San Diego Museum of Art. He has been part of The Gallery since the

beginning, in fact, he was one of the driving influences. Please say hi to Sam at the next Gallery event & maybe even see if he wants to meet up for dinner, as you can see, he

knows all of the great local eats!!! Kim

1) San Diego's best

kept secret?

Besides The Gallery? The existencial environment that is San Diego. The perfect balance of great people, weather, and relaxation.

2) What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?

That the medicines and technologies I develop will help those in need.

3) Guilty pleasure?

Double double cheeseburger, animal-style fries, and vanilla shake at In-N-Out.

4) Fun factoid about yourself?

I flew a plane before I drove a car.

5) Why did you join the Gallery?

To learn about art and work to make San Diego a cultural hub that we can all admire.

6) Favorite restaurant in San Diego?

Tough one. So you'll have to indulge me with this list...Italian: Cafe Milano (La Jolla) and The Venetian (Pt. Loma); French: Bleu Bohemme (Kensington) and Cafe Chloe (East Village); Seafood: Sea Rocket (Northpark); Mexican: Pokez (East Village).

7) Thing you are most excited to do/learn or would like to see while part of the Gallery?

Meeting up with my friends and learning about art from the real experts, the museum curators.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Meet a Gallery Member!

Hi Everyone,
So from time to time I like to check in with our Gallery members & try to learn more about them. The goal being that I can share this information with you all & at our next event you will know someone new & have fun things to chat about. So read on & please introduce yourself to Tim at our next event (May 20th, mark your calendar!).

Meet Tim Rout -

Me: What is San Diego's best kept secret?
Tim: The Gallery Club! (I swear he said this on his own...)

Me: What motivates you to get out bed in the morning?
Tim: Anything new & challenging. And coffee...

Me: Guilty Pleasure?
Tim: Chorizo Burrito

Me: Any fun factoids about yourself?
Tim: I was born in Congo, Africa to medical charity worker parents, and was carried around for a year in a half in a basket before coming to the US. I haven't stopped traveling yet!

Me: Why did you join The Gallery?
Tim: The chance to learn more about the art world and the opportunity to meet fun, like-minded people. So far, so good!

Me: Favorite restaurant in San Diego?
Tim: Kono's. Best breakfast, sun & view on the planet. Better than any 5 star restaurant.

Me: What is the thing you are most excited to do/learn while part of The Gallery?
Tim: I would like to find ways to translate my new knowledge of the art world to my own life, in artistic endeavors and improved understanding of people.

A big thanks to Tim for his time! I hope each of you will take the time to do this for me as well...
See you all soon,

Friday, April 30, 2010

Behind the Bloom: Art Alive at The San Diego Museum of Art

We are in the heart of the Museum's annual fundraiser, Art Alive. For those of you who haven't experienced this wholly unique extravaganza, here's the skinny:

Each spring more than 100 regional floral artists converge at The San Diego Museum of Art to create floral interpretations of famous works of art. Inspired by a specific artwork on view from the Museum's collection, each floral designer uses organic (living) materials to create their design. Not only does this share the "art" of flowers, but using shape, texture, and color it encourages museumgoers to see the art in a new way.

Celebrating its 29th year, Art Alive is the Museum's ONLY annual fund raising event. How important is this? It's critical. We rely on the revenue from this 4-day program to support essentials like education programs, exhibitions, and care of the collection. 

Over time, there have been a host of different event formats, but a few things remain the same...every year the historic rotunda is transformed by a top floral design team. The selection process varies, but the end result is always a major wow-factor. This year René van Rems, a local AND international celebrity, brought in a team of 30 people, a lighting crew, more than 20,000 stems to create a two story floral chandelier.  

There is also a suite of related events that help support the bottom line. That's where the Opening Celebration comes in...a gala, a party, a soiree. Whatever you call it, it's the see-and-be-seen event of the season. Past events have included everything from live elephants to absinthe bars. Last night's party did not feature any live animals or illegal substances (that we know of)--but it was no exception--in fact, we all had a fantastic time.Here's some highlights, shots taken by this most amazing magical photobooth from Patron. WOW do we look good or what?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Dark Dreams with Hugo Crosthwaite at Noel-Baza Fine Art

Last Sunday Gallery Members were invited to a special evening at Noel-Baza Fine Art gallery in Little Italy for a private viewing of Dark Dreams, an exhibition of Hugo Crosthwaite's artwork. Museum curator Amy Galpin lead a refreshing dialogue with Crosthwaite, and guests received a bonus tour of Pierette van Cleve's private collection. After the tours everyone made their way to El Camino Super Cucina for margaritas and ceviche.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Curator Trip to Mexico City

From time to time, I have the good fortune to do research or attend a conference abroad. As a curator with strong interests in Mexican art, I was thrilled to travel to Mexico City, one of my favorites places in the world and in my opinion, the best city for art viewing. While many of my colleagues might pick Paris or Rome, I would jump on a plane any day of the week to see the diversity of art found in Mexico’s capital.
My recent trip to Mexico City was my sixth, but it was my first time to stay in the historic center. It was amazing to wake up to the sound of the Cathedral’s bells, and to fall asleep to the light sound of drumming from the central plaza.
Walking through the streets of Mexico City, history and art unfold seamlessly. Within a few quick blocks in the heart of the historic center, one can experience the ancient art of the Mexica Empire, colonial architecture, murals created by Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco, and the most recent work of José Luis Cuevas. At the nearby Colegio de San Ildefonso, one can experience murals by the Frenchman Jean Charlot, an artist included in The San Diego Museum of Art’s collection.
For the Museum, I met with a curator at the Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL) and discussed some upcoming collaborations between our museums. I also visited the Blaisten Collection, located in the Tlatelolco area of Mexico City. Tlatelolco is another area of Mexico City in which one sees art from different centuries in rapid succession; ancient ruins, a colonial church, and a mural by Siqueiros are neighbors. It is also an area of Mexico City where residents witnessed the horrific violence that broke out in 1968 between student protesters and the police. A memorial in the Plaza de Tres Culturas honors those who lost their lives. The Blaisten Collection includes works by well-known Mexican artists María Izquierdo, Agustín Lazo, and Carlos Orozco Romero. 
Perhaps the most exceptional part of my trip to Mexico City was the afternoon I spent with Brigita Anguiano, the widow of the Mexican muralist, printmaker, and painter Raúl Anguiano. The San Diego Museum of Art has several works by Anguiano in its permanent collection and plans to host a small exhibition of Anguiano’s paintings this summer. I visited their home in Coyoacán, an area of Mexico City with the house museums of both Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky. It was an incredible experience to see Anguiano’s studio and to have a private viewing of the stunning paintings in Brigita’s collection. The visit made me extremely excited about the opening of the Anguiano show at the Museum. With its ardent dedication to the visual arts, Mexico City is a dynamic place for art lovers. I'm already looking forward to my next visit.
Not to miss: Chapultepec Park, Museo Rufino Tamayo, National Palace murals, Ministry of Education murals, Colegio de San Ildefonso murals, Museo Templo Mayor, UNAM campus, Museo Franz Mayer, Coyoacán, Tlatelolco, Alameda Park, Palacio de Bellas Artes, José Luis Cuevas Museum, and a day trip to Acolman and Teotihuacan.

If you really love murals, also try: the Supreme Court Building, Polyforum Cultural Siqueiros, Museo Mural Diego Rivera, and the house museum dedicated to Siqueiros in Polanco.
The Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil and the Museo Dolores Olmedo have stunning collections of modern art as does the Andres Blaisten Collection in Tlatelolco.

A final art tip: Pick up a newspaper and check out the current exhibitions. There are so many art spaces that you can easily find new and exciting things to do. On my recent trip I went checked out the art listings and find my way to a show that honored the anniversary of certain tax freedoms for artists. The show included a stunning Rivera painting that I had never seen before and a host of strong works by contemporary artists. I caught an intriguing Betsabeé Romero show as well.
 -Amy Galpin, Project Curator for American Art

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Alice Neel's Aphorisms

Last night, the Sundance Channel aired their compelling film on Alice Neel. The best parts of the film are undoubtedly all the recorded videos of Neel herself.

When painting her portraits, for example, she said that she had four things in mind:
1. Art - the best part of the process was the moment of "dividing of the canvas," the setting out of the composition.
2. Likeness - the portrait needed, after all, to look like the person being painted. Only then could one try to move on to...
3. Capturing something of the inner character of the sitter.
4. And finally, she explained, the painting should have an aspect of zeitgeist. A portrait painted in the 1970s shouldn't look like as though it were painted in the 1930s.

Keeping all that in mind, have another look at the Museum of Art's Portrait of Mildred Myers Oldden, which was just reinstalled in the newly configured 20th Century Galleries.

Painted around 1937, the portrait is a relatively early work (and as such is an interesting counterpoint to her better-known paintings of the 1970s), but it gives you a pretty good idea of what Neel meant.

The best line of the documentary, however, was something else entirely. At one point, Neel turned to the camera and explained...

Art is not as stupid as human conversation

Thursday, February 25, 2010

HOMECOMING: Artist Hugo Crosthwaite returns to San Diego for his first museum exhibition

By Alexander Jarman, Manager of Public Programs

Brutal Beauty: Drawings by Hugo Crosthwaite opens tonight at Museum.  This exhibition is particularly exciting because we will have the artist composing a work in the gallery space for all to see for the next few weeks.  I sat down with Hugo over some Mahi Mahi tacos recently to talk about his work.

AJ: Hugo, you were born in Tijuana, went to college in San Diego and now live and work in New York City. Do you consider yourself more of a Mexican or American artist?

HC: For me, that question doesn’t enter into my work that much. New York is so cosmopolitan that being from somewhere else doesn’t matter much. My drawings often reflect to some degree the place that I am living at the time, though I don’t think the Tijuana landscape will ever leave the work.

AJ: Tell me more about making it as an artist here versus New York City.

HC: I try not to think about being a smaller fish in a bigger pond. New York is the heart of the industry, you can’t throw a rock in that city without hitting an artist. But there are lots of people there trying to just make a living with their art and a lot more opportunities for them to do so. More NYC institutions are paying attention to emerging artists, which is why it is so gratifying for me to come back and participate in the Museum’s exhibition here. The San Diego Museum of Art was the first museum I ever went to growing up. It was the only place I could actually see works by all the artists I was interested in- Giotto, Rembrandt, Sorolla, Goya.

AJ: You taught yourself to draw by copying illustrations from Don Quixote and the Divine Comedy at a very early age. What attracted you to such serious and heavy subject matter and has that stayed with you in the work you continue to make today?

HC: I was captivated by the very dramatic images of naked bodies in poses of suffering. I mean, the Divine Comedy has all of these images of people writhing in hell, but the drawings were full of beautiful lines and compositions. That dramatic aesthetic was the first thing I fell in love with in art and I am still drawn to it. But I never looked at the whole figure or the whole picture when I was redrawing it. I would copy one detail and then move on to the next detail, which is what I still do today. I am a collage artist in the sense that all of my figures are made up of body parts and details from various sources. I might draw an eye from a glamour magazine, and then a mouth from a movie still and then a body from an advertisement. So the drawings are just created detail by detail, I never have any idea how they will look when they are done. I can’t sketch out an entire composition ahead of time because I’m too obsessed with the details.

AJ: So let’s talk more about your drawing process, in terms of how it is structured and when you know the piece has finally come together.

HC: Well, the drawing I am working on in the galleries for this show is the fourth time I have proposed working in a public space on a strict deadline. I have to give myself a schedule in order to finish in time, since I only have a couple of weeks. For all of the other works in the show, I have been able to work for months on them at a time or even a year if I need to. I did one of my first big public drawings at a gallery in New York. They invited me to be in a show but all of my work had just been shipped off to another exhibition, so I thought I would make a drawing, sort of as a performance, in the space during the run of the exhibition. In that instance, I have a deadline, so the drawing is done when it has to be done. But when I’m in my studio, I know a work is finished when I can’t possibly think of adding anything else to it….the drawing has run its course and it’s not taking me anywhere else. That’s usually when the title comes to me too. But finishing the drawing is easy, tackling that empty canvas is the harder part.

AJ: Tell me quickly about your drawing here at the Museum, both the actual piece and the process of being ‘on view’ while you create.

HC: Well the invitation to do this show came just as I was reading A Tale of Two Cities. And coming back to the border region, I thought I would make a drawing with two figures, one representing Tijuana and one representing San Diego. I like exploring the duality, the points of embrace and of conflict between these two cities.

I’m looking forward to drawing in front of a Museum audience because I think it demystifies the artistic process. I would always wonder how artists worked in their studios, like how did they hang their canvases, what kind of easel did they use, what kind of techniques were they using? Why was Francis Bacon’s studio so messy but his paintings so pristine? What you’re seeing when you come to watch me in the galleries is exactly what you would see me doing in my studio- except I won’t be listening to music! Usually I have my iPod or NPR going. I didn’t want to bring my iPod with me into the galleries because I want to make sure I can hear someone talking to me if they had a question.

AJ: So you’re not worried about people coming into the space and trying to talk to you while you’re working?

HC: No, I like talking to people about the work. If I didn’t, I never would’ve proposed doing this project.

AJ:Now that you’ve seen the space, how do agree with Amy’s [Amy Galpin, Project Curator for American Art at the Museum, curated the exhibition]  vision for the show?

HC: I am very happy with all the work Amy picked and arranged. These pieces represent my working in San Diego from about 1998 until 2004*, when I moved to New York. So for me, it is a chance to reacquaint myself with some of my past pieces, it’s kind of like a time capsule. But that’s why proposing the mural was so important for me, because it gives the audience a chance to see what I’m up to right now. It serves as a very nice little retrospective.

Images: Top, Three Graces, Collection of Debra Dold Trust
             Lower, TWINS, Courtesy of Van Cleve Fine Art

* Brutal Beauty contains works from 1998-2007, and includes a commissioned work--constructed by Crosthwaite on site February-March 2010.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gallery Event Wrap-Up: A Conversation between Curator Ariel Plotek and Educator Alexander Jarman

On January 21, The Gallery hosted their Behind Closed Doors: Art of the 20th Century event at the Museum.  Assistant Curator Ariel Plotek and Public Programs Manager Alexander Jarman sat down to reflect on how the evening went.

AJ: So what was your favorite part of the night?

AP: Well, first let me just say what I like most about the Gallery. What I’ve remarked repeatedly about Gallery get-togethers is how much the members seem to like one another. Folks don’t just come for a lecture, they’re there to rub shoulders with each other. Having said that, as a speaker, our Gallery members are an ideal audience: curious, attentive, and there to have fun.

AJ: And it was great to be able to enjoy a beer in the galleries while listening to you, Amy and John. But seriously, it was very special to have the group see the space, see the works and hear the ideas behind the exhibitions before they are even open to the public. It seems like everyone was excited to bring their friends back when the shows open to share their knowledge of the ‘inside scoop.’

AP: You know, there’s a sort-of nervous energy in the Museum, a real sense of mounting excitement when a show is about to open. What you see at the official opening is an unveiling, the culmination of a lot of effort–

AJ: And what you got to share on Thursday wasn’t just the result, but some of that anticipation.

AP: Exactly. And it was great to see how contagious that excitement can be. Everyone really wanted to talk about the choices we’d made for the shows. All those nitty-gritty details suddenly seemed to matter—and not just to the curator, whose job it is to weigh shades of white…

AJ: Yeah, and it seemed like most people were pretty keen to keep the conversation going.

AP: Even before the Art of North America was fully open, people were milling around, curious —checking out the ‘peach cobbler’ (the coral color in galleries 2 and 3). It certainly got everyone talking.

AJ: I thought Katy’s comment about how even the Board of Trustees doesn’t get that kind of behind-the-scenes glimpse, was very apt. Really reminded us all how special the evening was.

AP: Absolutely, I thought that captured it perfectly.

Top image: Ariel Plotek holds a 'butterfly board,' which is a preparatory map of the exhibition layout.
Lower image: A close-up of the 'butterfly board' for Art of the 20th Century.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

James Hyde

As visitors to the Museum have seen this week, we're starting major reinstallations. The Picasso, Miro, Calder exhibition has closed, and those rooms will soon be given over to the art of South Asia, in a new installation entitled Temple, Palace, Mosque. For the first time, our important - even world-renowned - collection of South Asian painting from the Binney Collection will get a prominent place in the museum. It deserves it: this is one of the world's great collections of painting from India, and we're going to install it in rooms that will also have sculpture and other objects from our collection.

That will be a complicated display and it will take some time to set up. In the meanwhile, we're using one of the now-empty galleries just off the rotunda to show our installation-sized group by contemporary artist James Hyde (born 1958).

Entitled Middle Station--Luminous Platforms and Relaxed Seating, this is a collection of glowing coffee tables and of chairs made of galvanized aluminum or vinyl-sheathed styrofoam. Indebted to the American minimalist movement of the 1960s and 70s, to artists such as Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Scott Burton, Hyde's work plays with the properties of light and reflection and questions the boundaries between art and utilitarian objects. The installation might be summed up with a quotation from the artist himself: "For me, painting is neither an object or a practice, but a habit of seeing... I'm interested in how furniture constructs the figure. This comes from painterly concerns. I've often been more interested in the pictorial qualities of the painting support than its surface. My furniture can be thought of as pictorial abstractions of a painting panel."

With that in mind, come in, sit down for a while, and be part of the work of art. If you want to know more about Hyde and his work, have a look at his website:

-John Marciari

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What Museum People are Talking About

Last week was chock full of arty encounters, museum moments and culture gossip. Thought I'd share a bit of this with you all, to keep you up to speed on what museum people are talking about.

Monday at the Getty: How to Get an Art Historian All Worked Up

We took a select group of Trustees and Circle Donors up to the Getty for a private tour of their latest exhibition, Drawings by Rembrandt and His Pupils: Telling the Difference with senior curator Lee Hendrix and our own John Marciari. Of course we learned more about Rembrandt, and the up and comers who studied with the master, but we also got quite an education on the controversy of attribution. Is this really a Rembrandt? Or is it a Govert Flinck? How can you tell? For the record, art historians get really sweaty and animated expressing their opinions on this. For more on Rembrandt don't miss all of the activities in SoCal not to mention our own Ferdinand Bol show.

PS. The other hot topic on everyone's lips was the recent announcement (January 7, 2010) that Getty director since 2005, Michael Brand, was stepping down. We were warmly greeted by David Bomford, associate director for collections at the Museum and interim director.

Thursday Lunch: The Role of a Museum Director is Not For the Faint of Heart

I met my friend Rob for lunch in La Jolla on Thursday afternoon. He's from LA and works for Gurr Johns dealing with appraisals and private collections. Our big conversation topic was on the recent naming of Jeffrey Deitch as the new director of MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles). I won't give you my take here, but if you're interested, read this NYT article and today's LA Times piece. Dig deeper with a series of interviews with Deitch from Modern Art Note's Tyler Green. Finish it up with Tyler's summary which provides links to other takes on the topic.

Friday Lunch: How Cool is Hugo Crosthwaite?
Friday we had lunch with Pierette Van Cleve, of Van Cleve Fine Art.  Van Cleve represents artist Huge Crosthwaite, who is a San Diego artist (in NY) making it big. Really big. And he's going to be at the Museum in February installing a major piece for Brutal Beauty: Drawings by Hugo Crosthwaite. Not sure what this installation might be like? Check this clip out. At the February Culture & Cocktails you'll have a chance to see him at work...We're pretty smitten, and we think you will be too.

Sarah E. Beckman
Associate Director of Development

Monday, January 11, 2010

Living Your Life With More élan

By Alexander Jarman, Public Programs Manager
This coming Tuesday, January 12, the Museum has another installment of its exciting Art of Élan concert series-it’s chamber music with a heck of a lot of energy. I asked Art of Élan’s two artistic directors, Kate Hatmaker and Demarre McGill, if they could answer a few questions about their group, classical music and working with the Museum.

1. Tell us a little about how you decided on the name Art of Élan.
First, we love the word élan. It’s a French word that represents spirit, vitality and momentum, all of which have universal appeal. For us, Art of Élan is really about the art of living your life with more élan. It’s about injecting some élan into all that you do, and for us, that’s classical music.

2. You are both already professional musicians playing in a highly regarded symphony. What made you want to decide to start a side project?
We formed Art of Élan a little over 3 years ago, with the intention of attracting a more diverse audience to classical music. There is often a misconception that classical music is somehow outdated, that young people are unable to relate to it today, but we both feel that live ‘classical music’ is extremely relevant and exciting. We felt that we… would be able to showcase the local talent of San Diego [and] make classical music more accessible for people in San Diego.

3. Who do you enjoy listening to?
While we both listen to a wide variety of music (pop, hip-hop, classical, jazz, blues) we are usually struck by people who are trying to do something different with their art.

4. Why did you specifically want to work with the Museum for this series?
We are so thrilled to be collaborating with SDMA on this year’s “Fantasia” series. Performing in an art gallery allows people’s senses to be stimulated much more than they would at traditional concert halls, and, as each of our concerts is inspired by a different work of art in the museum’s collection, there is certain synergy that pervades the events, uniquely marrying both music and visual art. It’s an added bonus that the Hibben Gallery has such nice acoustics as well!

5. What can we expect from this next concert on Tuesday?
Our upcoming concert is called “Shades of Affection.” Inspired by Pablo Picasso’s Painter and Model III, it features a wide variety of musical tellings of love and lust. We have also invited a bass/guitar duo from Tijuana to come perform some of their original compositions on the program. The entire show will be available online by Wednesday afternoon (, so that concertgoers can continue to enjoy the concert experience, long after it’s over!
As with all of our concerts, we invite our guests to join us afterwards for Happy Hour food and drinks, next door at The Prado.

We're not the only ones interested in Art of Élan. Check out the article in this past Sunday's Union-Tribune with the link below.

Concert details:
Tuesday, January 12, 7:00 p.m.
Hibben Gallery
Members: $20, Nonmembers $25, Students $10
Above image: Pablo Picasso

Spain, 1881–1973
Painter and Model III, 1970
Pastel on card
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norton S. Walbridge