Sunday, April 16, 2006
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[above image: "Raft of the Medusa" by Theodore Gericault]
I would like to take this time to thank Tyler Green over at Modern Art Notes, for his support of On the Cusp and his generous role in assisting us, by way of paving the road of communications between us and Maxwell Anderson. So, thanks once again Tyler it is very much appreciated.
For those of our readers who may not have read our initial post on Maxwell Anderson and his appointment as the new Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art you can read it here. I would like to thank Max as well for his willingness to take time out from his busy schedule to allow us this interview. We hope that through this interview, the arts community in Indianapolis can get to know a little more about the man who is to be the new Director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art and to get a reading on what we may expect from him over the next few years. I am quite interested in following what he does over the next several months and can't wait to see how he turns things around. I expect the impact he will make at the IMA will extend beyond their walls and into the Indianapolis area art community. Things around here may start to pick up. We can hope.
And now, on with the interview:
OtC- What was the first work of art, or experience with the arts, that made an impact on your life?
My dad was an English professor, and he had two year-long leaves of absence that took our family overseas, when I was 6 (to France) and 10 (to England). Growing up in New York City meant school trips to the Met, but that turned out to be a warm-up to exploring the medieval fortress at Carcassone, gaping at Gericault's Raft of the Medusa in the Louvre, seeing the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum, sifting through boxes of Turners in the reserves of the Tate Gallery, or setting foot in the then empty, windswept precinct of Stonehenge. We lived modestly, but had countless gifts of experience like these.
OtC- How is Indianapolis's reputation perceived in the broader contemporary art world and where might you see it in 5 years, 10 years
Lisa Freiman has a great reputation in the field. Lots of colleagues from museums including the Metropolitan have called and written to say how lucky I am to be working with her. The Amy Cutler show exemplifies how, with the right curatorial leadership, an artist in her early 30s but already of international stature (whom I was very happy to have in my third and last Whitney Biennial) can be at home in a one-person show at the IMA.
I'm especially excited about how we can make the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park one of the world's most compelling intersections of contemporary creativity and the natural environment-an environment which can be both manicured and tousled. That will come as an unexpected surprise to urban lovers of contemporary art. As a 100-acre preserve surrounding the IMA, it stands to become, once we get it underway late in 2007, a key component of life in Indianapolis, and a laboratory for current artistic practice on the international stage.
OtC- What are your first impressions of the Indianapolis Museum of Art? the good? the bad?
Lots of room, cheerful staff and volunteers, an air of expectation, a work in progress, and a need to wire us up to the community at large.
OtC- What were some of the deciding factors for you, to take this position in Indianapolis?
I have a chance to help insure that in a few years we can offer residents and visitors an unforgettable combination: innovative displays of the legacy of past civilizations and art movements, a fresh take on contemporary life through the eyes of today's artists, and the natural beauty of our grounds, including the Fairbanks Art & Nature Park as well as Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens. The IMA's endowment is a backstop against commercial seductions that have pushed many museums to make choices unrelated to or at odds with their mission. The Board is very engaged in pursuing best practices in governance, and has extended a warm welcome to me and a commitment to see that the IMA has the resources it needs to flourish, the staff and volunteers have been really enthusiastic about what we can all accomplish together, and patrons past and present are ready to help us build on what Tony Hirschel, Bret Waller and directors before them brought to Indianapolis.
OtC- What do you feel is the role and responsibility of an art museum Director today?
A steward of unassailable ethical standards, a leader who rallies the community around a lively, persuasive vision of the Museum's potential, an art historian whose judgments are informed by love and knowledge of art of all times, and a manager who grapples fairly and sensibly with the hard competition between growing costs and growing needs.
OtC- What are your immediate plans/goals for the IMA? Your long term goals?
Short-term, I want to learn about the spirit of the IMA and Indianapolis and how people have shaped and informed each. Long-term, I hope to make the IMA an indispensable feature of life in Indianapolis and a must-see experience for visitors to Indiana, by acquiring and presenting artworks that make us think differently about our daily lives.
OtC- Should we expect staff and management changes to take place in the near future?
I am coming in with no assumptions about staff or management changes. It will be important to think through what the Museum's recent expansion requires of us--Larry O'Connor has very ably steered it in its opening year, and once the permanent collection is fully installed we can review how the public experience and our professional support of it are meshing.
OtC- What do you feel the current art collection is lacking?
I have a lot to learn about the collection-many of its strengths are well known internationally, including the Josefowitz post-Impressionist Collection, examples of which I had on loan in Toronto; the Holliday Neo-Impressionist collection, the Turner holdings; the Edo-period paintings, the African collection, Chinese ceramics, textiles, and studio glass. I am looking forward to drinking in what is not on view now, as well as the range of the American, European, decorative arts, African, and contemporary collections. Thus far the goal has been to build on strengths, rather than chasing a comprehensive collecting mandate. That makes good sense.
OtC- What changes do you foresee in the IMA's acquisition practices?
Too soon to say. Most acquisitions are through gift and bequest-we will continue to make important one-off purchases, but we also need to encourage collectors in the region today, cajole Hoosiers who have moved out of state, and stimulate others to become collectors.
OtC- Any chance the IMA will start using more Internet technology, blogs, podcasts, streaming video lectures, etc., to better reach a greater audience?
No doubt. I'm very impressed with the plans in place today, and will get up to speed on these. We will make more of the collection electronically illustrated with in-depth information, and use folksonomy to engage audiences locally and around the world. We have a terrific in-house team already working on providing access to programming through video and audio, and I foresee making the IMA a model of transparency in revealing the collections, exhibitions, programs, and life of a great museum.
OtC- Once you feel you have achieved the goals you have set for yourself in respects to the IMA, do you think your commitment to Indianapolis may subside, to move on?
We haven't even gotten there yet! With our second child on the way next month, my wife, son, and I are thrilled to be making a home for ourselves in Indianapolis. We've lived in the South (I ran a museum for 8 years in Atlanta and was hard to pry loose), in Toronto, in New York, and in LA. My wife, although raised in Texas, was born in the Midwest, and my dad was born in North Dakota; I in turn have always found myself at home wherever I've lived. There's something great about being able to make a contribution to a community ready to embrace the goal of greatness with zest, and that readiness is very clear in Indianapolis.