Friday, March 24, 2006

Maxwell Anderson, New Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art

[left, Maxwell Anderson and his wife Jacqueline]

The story has it that Maxwell Anderson has just signed on as the new Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art. He apparently asked to meet with the staff today and official press announcements are on the way. It was just yesterday that I was having a long conversation with a friend about my concerns that the IMA has been without a Director for so long. And strangely enough I was told about this intriguing news just a few hours ago.

For those of you who are unaware as to who Maxwell Anderson is, he is a Principal with AEA Consulting, founder and president of the Art Museum Network, a member and on the Advisory Board of the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation, former president of the Association of Art Museum Directors in 2002-2003, former Director of the Art Gallery of Ontario from 1995-1998, and more recently the former Director of the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1998-2003. The list goes on and on. The guy has surely been around the block a few times. For a more detailed listing of his extensive background and published papers check out his website. Oh, he is also married to the beautiful actress Jacqueline Anderson.

His stint at the Whitney had it fair share of detractors, one being the likes of Jerry Saltz, whose 2003 Village Voice article blasts Max as well as the Board of Trustees at the Whitney. And with the recent criticizing of this years Whitney Biennial, the New Yorker chimes in on the state of affairs at the Whitney and in part the affect Anderson had on the museum.

So what does all this mean for the Indianapolis Museum of Art? What changes will we see in for the museum in the near future? Perhaps we can get an idea from a 2005 paper Anderson was commissioned to write for the Getty Leadership Institute titled, 'Metrics of Success in Art Museums'. In this Anderson comments, "I believe that art museums are first and foremost educational institutions. By that, I mean that they are to their detriment places that privilege entertainment over learning. I further believe that the rewards of acquiring, caring for, publishing, interpreting, and displaying an art museumÂ’s permanent collection are more significant and longer-lasting than those of staging temporary exhibitions. And lastly, I believe that those museums that attract ample contributed income are healthier and artistically freer places than those that rely too extensively on earned income from tickets, merchandise, and events." He also defines in this paper ways for a museum to gauge its success as,

"Defining Appropriate Metrics
The following aspects of a museumÂ’s identity fit the three criteria for appropriate
metrics (i.e., mission-focused, long-term, and verifiable):
1. Quality of Experience
2. Fulfillment of Educational Mandate
3. Institutional Reputation
4. Management Priorities and Achievements
5. Caliber and Diversity of Staff
6. Standards of Governance
7. Scope and Quality of Collection
8. Contributions to Scholarship
9. Contributions to Art Conservation
10. Quality of Exhibitions
11. Facilities' Contribution to Core Mission"

It is this type of forwardness and clarity that I think will benifit the IMA and bring the arts in Indianapolis to a new level. And what may start at the museum could spread through the other art institutions, galleries, and non-profits in the city. I for one am actually impressed with the decision to bring Anderson on board. With the IMA finishing up it's large expansion, I believe he has the knowledge, art/business speak, and ability to turn the IMA around and perhaps put it on the larger "Art World" map. Is this to much to expect? Am I just daydreaming? Perhaps, but I think that after much of the criticism that Anderson recieved about his directorship of the Whitney, he may feel he has something to prove. And what better way to prove himself than to turn around a moderate sized midwest art museum and make it a viable art destination.

[Update: Skip Berry at the Indianapolis STAR ran his article on Maxwell Anderson this mornings edition. And I would like to thank Tyler Green over at Modern Art Notes for all his generosity.]

18 Responses to “Maxwell Anderson, New Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art”

Ambassador of Goodwill said...
March 25, 2006 at 6:02 PM

Thanks for the update and information. Happened by chance to the blog and enjoyed it. Just happened to be at the IMA 2 weekends ago and found it to be a great experience.

Thanks again, Kent


Jeremy Tubbs said...
March 26, 2006 at 3:39 AM This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Jeremy Tubbs said...
March 26, 2006 at 3:47 AM This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Anonymous said...
March 26, 2006 at 10:20 AM

Well, I have no idea how to respond to Tubbs. There is so much contradiction in there that it hurts.

Maxwell Anderson at the IMA? Collecting art before blockbuster shows? Art before everything else?

Call me old-fashioned, but isn't this exactly what makes a museum great in the long run? Isn't the IMA supposed to be a focal point of arts in the area, not just Indy: Inspiring people to look at art AND COLLECT IT (and then give it to the IMA). Grow a real tradition of art.

If you want to jam some people in the door then go get some impressionist crap and let the old folks and "art fans" have a go at the museum for ... 3 months. And then the museum is dead.

For my dollar, the New Museum is a place where there are big shows that are smart, relavant, inspiring, and new. It is a place that is scholarly, where scholarship about art takes place.

The director of the museum is there to give relevance to the place for itself and, most importantly, to the community. It seems, despite his problems at the Whitney, this is exactly what Anderson SAYS he is going to do. Will he do it? Who knows.

My question: is this guy, who clearly is connected in the NY area with a wife, who is an actress, really going to committ to the community? Or will he be here some time and then going every week to get his haircut in Manhattan? What in the world will his wife do while here? Last I checked there weren't any acting gigs in Indy.

Maybe she'll do local theatre. Maybe she'll do remote gown wearing for Dave Letterman while they are here.

Will the Hoosier City be wowed by this guy as a slickster or be put off by his East Coast other-worldliness?

Oh, yeah, even if they do move here it won't be for long. He's got 4-7 years to work freaken magic at the IMA and then he pulls a pheonix and goes to something much better, or, well, there's plenty of ashes around here anyway.

The Anono


Anonymous said...
March 26, 2006 at 2:21 PM

To the above anon., yes, yes and yes. Finally, a reasoned response. Museums should not merely entertain, isn't there enough of that especially in regards to art let alone the whole entertainment biz. Let's see some exhibits that offer a many layered experience, including scholarship, and, if we are lucky, intelligence.


Anon2 said...
March 26, 2006 at 2:38 PM

Yes, yes, let's make art more entertaining. Wasn't that Presnell opening fun? Until you awoke the next day with a vague feeling of unease....like something was taken from you, rather than being offered up.

At this point, I'd rather view a hundred covered bridge paintings (unadulterated) than to leave one more show with this sinking oppressed feeling. Really, how is the 'covered bridge' fantasy any different from the 'artist as art marketeer'? They are both lacking in generosity, interest, and frankly, ingenuity.

MAKE, don't TAKE!


Anonymous said...
March 27, 2006 at 12:32 PM

I agree with the retort. I am tired of hearing what Indianapolis needs. I'd rather consider what museum goers in general would benefit from. Indy may need more events, but the IMA may not be the solution to that problem. I've found that when art morphs into entertainment, it's mostly the art makers who are entertained. The viewers and those not on the inside are jilted and not given much of real value. Post-modernism is really a drag. Any attempt to actually touch or move is considered naive and passe. Instead we entertain.


Anonymous said...
March 27, 2006 at 3:19 PM

I agree with the other two Anonimi. IMA could use a few more signature pieces. You go to Chicago or New York to see the famous works that you know are part of the permanent collection (at least I do, I guess, and I assume that I speak for everyone). I'll take quality and educational opportunity over cheap theatrics any day of the week.

As for Post Modernism, I "get it", I really do. It seems that for the most part it's a form of intellectual masturbation, however, or an inside joke on how the artist is taking some banal subject matter and elevating it to high art. But what do you have at the end of that process? A bunch of "elevated banality". Congrats.

With that in mind, you have to consider if the artist has gone beyond a jaded parody of art perception, and into a meta-parody of the artist himself as a subject for derision. The artist is not so much a perceptive critic as he is an instigator of what he rails against.

Anon3


Anonymous said...
March 27, 2006 at 5:55 PM

Yes. Speaking of permanent collections, I was really touched this past weekend when a friend and her daughter came with me to the Chicago Art Institute and the 7 year old was incredibly excited to see works that I've been looking past for years- Degas' dancer, several Picasso paintings and a Monet (and of course the Thorne miniature rooms) She wasn't a boring old person or an "art fan" but she was interested in the art that some of this blog's readers might consider boring. If any jaded blogger wants to write back and tell me that the experiences of children don't matter and that art museums aren't supposed to be interesting to those who are less informed than the average ex-art student, then I really have to disagree. I've loved art museums since I was 7 and now I've happily grown into an ex-art student because of it. "Entertainment" comes in many forms.


Anonymous said...
March 27, 2006 at 7:44 PM

Who kidnapped the regulars and how may I repay them?


Liriodendron said...
March 27, 2006 at 7:57 PM

Why not the best of both worlds? Add to the permanent collection with wonderful new/old works. Have fantastic events revolving around the new aquisitions as they come. (The 7 year old has the right idea!) There are so many bare walls now, it is scary! Of course...it is a new museum.
Events don't have to be weird, just full and with potential for fun/pleasure for all ages. If you can draw the whole family at least once, hopefully twice a year, IMA will be one of those "Must join" family memberships. It is a wonderful feeling to get your 10 year old away from the tv or gaming system and off to the Art Museum because he was lured by anticipation.


Liriodendron said...
March 27, 2006 at 8:04 PM

Oh yeah...for starters, they could paint a couple walls the color of that gorgeous dress!


Christopher said...
March 27, 2006 at 11:35 PM

It seems to me that no one is really disagreeing here. And for me, apparently the perpetual optimist, the city is big enough to accommodate all of the above.

A few issues stand out:
- "the IMA needs a few signature pieces". I too would love for this to happen but in the current inflated market and with the Lilly's not focusing on collecting, that unfortunately probably won't happen. Not to say there aren't gems in the IMAs current collection, they're just not of the sort that will bring people in from our region, let alone the nation. Temporary exhibitions however, can easily do this.

- yes, much of post-modernism can be relegated to "intellectual masturbation" but it's certainly not all like that, and fortunately as a result, has opened up some yet to be categorized alternatives.

- the art world is big enough for seven year olds and seventy year olds to all have meaningful experiences at art museums.


Anonymous said...
March 28, 2006 at 1:20 PM

You are all wrong!
Intellectual masturbation is good and you won't admit it. At least better than saving your self for the wedding with the real world. Even the 7 year olds will like it as soon as they are old enough. So some people will accept the edgy impressionism (which was also full of jerking as well) but don't see the validity on the continuation of those early perverts, that post modernism is?

I have a question for Christopher: Does that mean that the new director will start acquiring more? Or just tightening the cash flow everywhere?


Christopher said...
March 28, 2006 at 4:05 PM

I'm not sure what the plans are. I would love for them to go after and get some signature pieces. Everything is just so expensive right now it's hard for everyone.


Liriodendron said...
March 29, 2006 at 7:02 AM

Not a bad idea to tout the hot properties already there. Have some event days supporting a few of the "wow" works here and now. Lay the groundwork for great things to come.
My husband (not an art person) was fascinated with the Norman Rockwell and the piece by the german artist (I believe) that showed an old Indpls street scene in incredible detail. He was polite about admiring works on the third floor to make me happy, but he actually spent a great deal of time standing in front of those 2 paintings. Besides the "loving the precious" part, I think they appealed to the historian in him....


Anonymous said...
March 29, 2006 at 2:03 PM

am I fucking? Oh no... I'm in the fucking midwest. Someone fucking throw a brick on me!


Scott said...
April 4, 2006 at 5:22 PM

one of the many anonymous said:

"Who kidnapped the regulars and how may I repay them?"

Hahaha, that has to be one of the funniest things I have read on this blog. Everytime I reread these comments I get a good laugh at that one.


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