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

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Never-ending Revision of Collections Research

A number of my earlier blog posts have given some idea of the never-ending (but nonetheless rewarding) task of research on the permanent collection. Here's another episode in "the life of a painting," showing how stories and misinformation can gradually accrete on the canvas.

The portrait at left is by the Nabi artist Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) and hangs in one of the small upstairs galleries with the rest of the collection given to the Museum by Ambassdor and Mrs. Maxwell Gluck.  Executed in the broad, flat patches of color and thick brushstrokes typical of Bonnard’s work, the painting has always been identified as a portrait of a “Monsieur Monteux.”

At some point in the late 1960s or early 1970s, before the painting came to the Museum, the title evolved. Whereas before it was simply identified as "Monsieur Monteux," suddenly it became a "Portrait of Pierre Monteux."

This is a case of wishful thinking. Someone must have asked, "Who was this Monteux?"  ...and then found the most famous Monteux possible: Pierre Monteux (1875-1964), one of the great conductors of the early 20th century. He had been the conductor for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris in the early 1910s but left Europe at the outbreak of World War I and came to America, where he was later conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

Moreover, the sitter in the portrait bears some resemblance to Pierre Monteux. Here, at right, is a photograph of him published in Life magazine in 1950. 
But the problem is this: Bonnard's painting was made much, much earlier... at least 35 years before that photograph, to be precise. If a portrait of Pierre Monteux, Bonnard's canvas would have had to be painted by 1915, when Monteux left France, but the conductor was only then 34 years old, and the sitter in the portrait is a much older man. The Bonnard catalogue raisonne, moreover, dates the painting to ca. 1915, presumably on the basis of style.

So if not Pierre Monteux, who is it? There is another Monteux who seems to fit. Marcel Monteux, the owner of the Chaussures Raoul chain (the first mass-produced shoe chain in France), was an early patron of the so-called Nabi group of artists, which included Bonnard and his associates Edouard Vuillard, Maurice Denis, and Ker-Xavier Roussel. Roussel's decorative paintings for the Monteux house, for example, are today in the Dayton Art Institute. Marcel Monteux also owned works by Degas and other leading artists of the day. If Bonnard painted a portrait of an older Monsieur Monteux in 1915, Marcel Monteux would seem to be our man. Unfortunately, there do not seem to be any other portraits or photographs of Marcel Monteux to compare, so for now (at least), the painting remains simply a "Portrait of Monsieur Monteux," but at least we've got Pierre out of the picture, so to speak.

-John Marciari, Curator of European Art
(with thanks to Agnes Penot-Lejeune for her help with provenance research)

Meet a Gallery Member!

This is my first stab at this so I welcome feedback! I'm a volunteer on the SDMA's steering committee for The Gallery and my focus is membership. I thought the group would be much more fun if we could start to learn a little about each other - even if it is only completely random, trivial facts!

My guinea pig was Antoinette Lipman (pictured below with fellow Gallery member, Sam Dychter) she eagerly answered my questions so that at our next Gallery event everyone would have a few random conversation starters with her (or so I would stop asking her to do this for me). ~ Kim

Here we go -

What do you think San Diego's best kept secret is? The view from Clay's Restaurant.
Guilty pleasure? Watching old Alfred Hitchcock shows on Hulu.

Swim, bike, run or gym? Tennis.

Favorite restaurant in San Diego? Harry's Diner.

Thing you are most excited to learn/do/experience with the Gallery? I am really excited to get a look behind the scenes at the museum.
Craziest place you have ever been OR the place you would most like to visit? I'd like to go see the Northern Lights and also take a road trip to do my own taste of the best hamburgers and BBQ across the country.