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The Curator Is In, July 7, 2011

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Jennifer Olivarez: Hello, Facebook fans! Any questions for the curators?

Petra R.: What kind of questions? :-) Would you have a look at my photography? Two years of photographing Minnesotan fauna and flora! My question would be: Are my images worthwhile?

Christopher Atkins: Hi Petra, thanks for your question about your work. Speaking for MAEP, we don’t do studio visits but you are always welcome to submit an exhibition proposal

Petra R.: Hi Christopher, thank you so much for your answer! :-) Oh – an online gallery is available here. one of my recent favorites. So far approx. 700 images including Snapping Turtles etc. Would love to get feedback! Now, I have a look at your link! Thank you again, Christopher, and I hope to read from you!
Greetings, Petra

Susan C.: How does one get a painting evaluated? I have one with some damage and would like to know if it will get worse or just stay as it is.

Patrick Noon: You can make an appointment to discuss this with one of the conservators at the Midwest Art Conservation Center. Their facility is located in our building.

Mel F.: Does the deaccession of museum pieces take place on a regular basis? Are the pieces always sold through private auction houses? Are the advance sales ever made public locally?

Pat W.: One of my favorite pieces is the Cottage On Fire by Joseph Wright of Derby. When will it be back on display?

Erika Holmquist-Wall: @Pat W.: The Derby is currently on display in the galleries, awaiting your visit!

Gail Marie K.: Will we ever get the Blue Horses back and would it ever be possible to keep it?

Erika Holmquist-Wall: Hi Gail – since the Blue Horses currently lives at the Walker, I don’t think they’ll ever be ready to give it up. :)

Susan C.: They gave up the jades…

TR J.: My great grandfather is Herschel V. Jones… who can I talk to about him? Perhaps come in and get an in depth tour of his collection!

Rachel McGarry: Well how nice to meet you TR!! I think about Herschel V. Jones every single day I’m at the museum and his generous gift of 5,000 prints to the MIA that founded the department of Prints and Drawings in 1916. You should come make an appointment to see some of these exceptional works of art. The Herschel V. Jones Print Study Room is appointment Tues. through Friday 10 to 4:30 by appointment. Hopefully I can meet you when you come in!! Also check out Lisa Michaux’s recent book, “Herschel V. Jones: The Imprint of a Great Collector,” available in the museum shop.

Liz S.: I love “The Lute Player” on view right now at MIA, but was wondering about the attribution to Artemisia Gentileschi painting this as a self-portrait. Can you tell me more about this work?

Rachel McGarry: I love Artemisia’s “Lute Player” too, Liz, and I’ve always wondered if Artemisia was able to play the lute, or just picked it up as a prop in her studio for this picture. The likeness is very close to other known portraits of the artist, and is dated to her Florentine period. Do you have another theory for the identity of the sitter?

Emily D.: How was the location for Wiley’s Santos Dumont chosen?

Patrick Noon: it was meant to dialogue with the Baroque paintings in that gallery

Venus de M.: What are your recommendations for student resources at the MIA? Thanks.

David Little: We have a great library, not to mention the Photo and Print Study Room collections. Check out the Departmental web pages to get details and make an appointment.

MIA: Here’s the direct link to the Study Rooms:​ex.php?section_id=53 and the library:

Erika Holmquist-Wall: The library maintains files on a number of objects within the museum, which students can access. Very helpful for doing research on papers! Also, we have a number of web resources – is a great place to start.

MIA: Our new Curator of Chinese Art, Liu Yang, is joining us for the first time today. Welcome Yang!

Annie D.: Welcome, Yang!

Victoria T.: I love the ceramic sculpture pieces in the MIA’s Chinese art exhibits – especially the two camels – so modern in sensibility.

Pope Art: Does MIA have works that could tour within Minnesota? Could be a great Legacy project.

Christopher Atkins: This is an fun idea to think about. I know that many of our objects are simply too fragile to travel, even for short distances. But MAEP is always interested in how we can share info about our artists all over the state.

Pope Art: MN Historical Society used to send out some quality prints from their collection. I work at a museum and would love to work with MIA as well in our secure setting to help promote our mutual mission. In fact, the Pope County Museum is hosting a gallery reception this evening for a local artist. It’s a contemporary oil painting exhibit based on early 1900s photos.

Christian Peterson: Howdy. For historical perpsepctive, in the 1970s the MIA had what it called the Artmobile. This bus-like vehicle had small shows of original art from our collection installed inside and then it drove around the state making stops in small towns. Sound like a great opportunity for an art heist, huh?

Venus de M.: I had no idea the MIA did such a thing. How fabulous!

Pope Art: Reminds me of that song… “There’s a truckload of art burning on the highway…” haha

Elizabeth Z.: Is there a way for the public to request or vote for an exhibit to come to MIA? I love work by Dominique Appia, but I don’t know how hard his work is to get . . .

Jennifer Olivarez: Elizabeth, our exhibitions proposals have to be generated by the curators, and we’re always looking at touring proposals as well as generating shows that relate to our collection in some way. What kind of art is Dominique Appia known for?

Elizabeth Z.: I’m not familiar with the terms but I suppose he is something of a surrealist. I saw a poster of his work “Entre les Trous de la Memoire” at a sale once and it’s easily one of the most amazing and thought provoking paintings I’ve ever seen.

Petra R.: This one?

Jennifer Olivarez: Elizabeth, I looked at his web site. He seems to be a bit obscure for our museum’s focus (we don’t do a lot with Swiss art), and frankly speaking, we don’t do a lot of single-artist shows, so we have to be very selective. Thanks for the heads-up, though!

Jane M.: In 2 weeks I’ll be bringing a small school group (5-7 year olds) to view some portraits (or any artworks) for some idea-hunting for character (hair, clothing, hat, etc.) for some hand puppets they will be making. Any suggestions for something we must see?

Jennifer Olivarez: Jane, I would contact our Tour Scheduling Office. They have self-guided tour ideas, and might be able to schedule a docent to go with your group, though it is relatively short notice. Our paintings curators might have some specific recommendations. We also have armor on view in Gallery 340, which might be interesting for them to see.

Erika Holmquist-Wall: Hi Jane! (paintings person, here!) I can think of a number of great examples for which your group should keep an eye out for: the Roslin, the Copley, the Moreelses (a pair of marriage portraits in the Dutch gallery), the Ghirlandaio, the Pencz and Cranachs in the Northern Renaissance gallery, the Largilliere, and the Degas. Good luck and have fun with your gallery search and your handpuppet project!

Christian Peterson: Jane: Coincidentally, we have an entire exhibition of portriat photographs up now, called “Facing the Lens,” located on the third floor. It includes old and new examples of hair, clothing, hats, and other things that may be helpful. Enjoy your visit.

Rachel McGarry: One of the themes for the MIA’s Art Adventure program is “Dressed for the Occasion” which examines costume and dress in art in the permanent collection. I was the Art Adventure volunteer for my 1st-grader’s class this spring, so they are exactly the age of your group. They just loved talking about different traditions of dress and were very engaged visitors when we came to the museum to see these objects in person.

Venus de M.: Can anyone share more info on the European posters exhibition in August? It sounds very cool!

Rachel McGarry: Opening August 27, “A Means of Escape: European Posters from 1889 to 1930,” will present a wonderful, focused selection of posters from the MIA’s permanent collection, as well as some terrific loans from local private collections. A fantastic poster preparatory drawing by Georges Paul Leroux is also being borrowed for the show. It is going up in the Target Atrium, and while I’m sad to see the masterpieces in “Collateral Damage” come down, the upcoming poster show will be a nice antidote to all that violent war imagery that has been in that space this summer.

Venus de M.: Thanks!

Paul W.: There have been a couple tornados in downtown MPLS in recent years. Does the MIA have a plan for that kind of disaster?

Christian Peterson: Paul: Our permanent plan for this is to keep the museum OUT of downtown.

Jennifer Olivarez: Paul, we do indeed have disaster response plans for the visitors and staff (people come first), the building, and the artworks. Thank goodness, the tornado from last summer left us unscathed, but we are ready for the next one if we have some warning!

Susan C.: How does one get a painting evaluated? I have one with some damage and would like to know if it will get worse or just stay as it is.

Laura K.: You should consult a paintings conservator. In the Twin Cities, you can contact Midwest Art Conservation Center or use the American Institute for Conservation’s website to find a conservator in your area.

Mary S.: Would that apply to other art forms besides paintings? I have some old (1930-ish) Japanese wood block prints that I found tucked away on a closet shelf and would like to know more about them, etc.

Erika Holmquist-Wall: Hi Mary – yes MACC has paper conservators on staff that can address your questions, if they need restoration.

Susan C.: Thanks!

Pope Art: Joe Horse Capture, we loved your visit/lecture at the Pope County Museum a few years ago! Come back!

Joe Horse Capture: Thanks! Maybe this Fall. Let’s talk!

Michael D.: Have you ever seen a painting by a famous artist and said to yourself, “I don’t care who painted it, it’s rubbish.”?

Patrick Noon: every day

Jennifer Olivarez: One of my former colleagues made a point of collecting interesting and great examples of design, even if the designer was unknown. That’s kind of the other end of the spectrum. It just reinforces that a “name” does not guarantee a great object. In fact, many fabulous examples of decorative arts have no artist attached to them  historically.

Emily D.: Care to share which one(s)?

Corine Wegener: In terms of decorative arts, furniture, ceramics and silver were often left unmarked. A great example is our 18th century American dressing table made in Philadelphia by a craftsman known only as “the Garvin Carver”.

Erika Holmquist-Wall: Ha ha, Emily! ;)

MIA: that’s a good question Emily… ;)

Emily D.: It was worth a shot, right? ;)

Jennifer Olivarez: Emily, we are sent so many pictures, many of potential donations to the MIA, and we are very selective. Plus, many people have the idea that we will take just about anything, so it’s a real education for the public to know just how selective we must be. In short, if we can’t picture ourselves writing an enthusiastic acquisitions proposal for something, we have to pass.

Emily D.: Totally understandable! About how many new acquisitions does the Institute make per year?

MIA: Here’s a link to some of our recent ones.

Christian Peterson: E: We’re working on getting you a total number for last year. But, as you can imagine, it varies widely by year, depending on our funds for purchases and how many gifts we receive. As a photo curator, I can tell you that in 2007 we received one particularly large donation of an individual’s entire private collection of over 500 photographs, which was the largest gift to our department ever. It included work by Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and many others.

Erika Holmquist-Wall: Agreed, it’s totally variable. Where Christian might acquire 500 objects, the paintings department may only acquire one or two.

Emily D.: Thanks! This has been very interesting!

MIA: We would have to check the the records for the distant past, but last year we acquired 321 objects.

Bruce R.: I know the Minnesota History Center has an extensive art collection that I am guessing rarely sees the light of day. Does the MIA ever borrow from it? Thoughts on an exhibition of some of the art from the collection by the MIA?

Erika Holmquist-Wall: Hi Bruce – that’s a great idea! Just this morning, my colleague Patrick Noon and I were discussing the possibility of a “Minnesota gallery”. MHS is a wonderful resource, and they have some very good works.

David Little: Yes, if you visit New Pictures 4: Angela Strassheim, Evidence, you can see a couple of homocide pictures from newspapers that I borrowed from the MHC.

Jennifer Olivarez: Bruce, we borrowed extensively from the Historical Society for the exhibition “Minnesota 1900″ several years ago, in the areas of paintings, decorative arts, and Native American objects. I haven’t personally borrowed from them recently, but I have borrowed from the American Swedish Institute, the Goldstein Gallery, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. So much to complement our collections, the possibilities are endless.

Christian Peterson: Another example: our current exhibition “Facing the Lens: Portriats of Photographers” includes two self portriats of Joel Whitney, Minnesota’s premiere pioneer (nineteenth-century) photographer, borrowed from guess where?

Kristen A.: I would love to see my relative, Dewey Albinson, in a Minnesota gallery. He was a regionalist in the early to mid 20th century. His living relatives helped the American Swedish Institute with a huge exhibit there last winter. Many of us shared from our personal collections. It was cool and DIY’ish…though pieces from museums were included as well.
Erika Holmquist-Wall: Hi Kristen! I’m quite familiar with Albinson’s work, especially through the ASI’s efforts. How fantastic that you were all able to participate for that show. I’m pretty sure that we have an Albinson down in storage, but (from what I recall) I think there may be some condition issues with it, unfortunately.

Paul W.: I know the MIA has a close working relationship with France. Are there any other international cultural organization/governmental connections. China? African nations?

Jennifer Olivarez: Paul, I am working with the cooperation of the Finnish Consulate and the Foreign Ministry in Helsinki on a Finnish contemporary design exhibition for 2014. Helsinki is World Design Capitol for 2012, so it will be a very good opportunity to study design initiatives there, which are backed by both the Foreign Ministry and the city government.

Jan-Lodewijk Grootaers: Great question. Many African capitals have a museum, and the paradox is that the best African art is mostly in western collections. Cooperation between African and European & US museums is gradually getting into place, but the MIA is not yet involved in this important development.

David Little: We are always looking to work with foreign institutions to collaborate on innovative exhibitions.

Patrick Noon: Paul, I’m working with the National Gallery in London on a major exhibition for 2015. I have previously worked with many other international museum partners outside of France but also in France. The MIA is also a member of Frame – French regional and American Museum Exchange – a consortium of 26 American and French museums that collaborate on programs etc.

Sara C.: There was a piece you had on display probably almost 15 years ago now–it was a sculpture of a horse, perhaps slightly more than life-size, made from found objects (car parts and iron, I think). It was laying on its side, as if it were flai…ling or in distress, its eyes popping out and mouth open. It was absolutely haunting. And I haven’t seen it since that visit. Is it still in your possession? I think I recall seeing it in one of the downstairs galleries–perhaps where you usually put new acquisitions?

Jennifer Olivarez: Sara, I’ve worked here for almost 20 years, and this is not ringing a bell. Could it have been part of an MAEP installation?

Sonja P.: sounds like an Al Wadzinski?

Sara C.: I just remember that it gave me nightmares for a week. And then, a few years later, I saw Equus for the first time, and the piece came back to my memory. I’ll see if I can dig it up. I do remember seeing it in one of the first galleries, though.
Wouldn’t it be awful if it was just some sort of really vivid nightmare? I’ll see what I can dig up on my own.

Sarah W.O.: Dreams that we think are real– they’re the worst!

Tam Sopinski Perlman: Sonja P. you are right. It was Al Wadzinski. Common Objects/Obsessive Form in 1998. It was an amazing show that featured Al as well as Rollin Marquette, Joy Kops, Jan D. Elftmann Bill Klaila, and Rick Salafia. It is one of my all time favs. You could bowl with On Jan’s cork bowling alley on Thursday nights. You can still see Al’s work in Lowertown in St. Paul and at Gallery 360. Maybe his fish at 360 will give you good dreams?

Venus de M.: For Liu Yang in particular (though this may be common elsewhere): I was recently in another part of the US and visited a store purporting to sell many “Chinese antiques”. They were clearly mass-produced to look old, but were not actually old. Is this an issue that comes up solely with the layperson, or do curators have to deal with it as well?

Jennifer Olivarez: Venus, it’s really buyer beware in antique shops. Unfortunately, many reproductions of antiques were made, not necessarily meant to deceive, in the late 19th century, because Tudor and Jacobean styles were popular, and those are often thought to be the real thing. My advice is, visit museums and look closely at actual antique  furniture, and you’ll develop an eye for the good and the bad. May I also put in a plug for our Affinity Groups, which sponsor events with curators where you can learn more about art and antiques. Here is a link to the Affinity Group information.

Liu Yang: As curators we do encounter fakes and sometimes even made mistakes as some of them were being produced in such a sophisticated way. The good experience and sometimes scientific test would help to determine whether a work is a fake or not.

Coral M.: What do we have to look forward to for the Young People’s Ofrenda Project this year? Anything new?

Joe Horse Capture: Indeed! We will be working with four schools this year, which will bring new perspectives to the project. Look for it November 1 through December 4, 2011 in Gallery 110.

Coral M.: Wonderful! Which schools will you be working with?

Joe Horse Capture: Austin High School (Greater Minnesota), Thomas Edison High School (Minneapolis), El Colegio Charter School (Minneapolis), and Humboldt Secondary School (St. Paul). It will be fun!

Liz S.: I love “The Lute Player” on view right now at MIA, but was wondering about the attribution to Artemisia Gentileschi painting this as a self-portrait. Can you tell me more about this work?

Erika Holmquist-Wall: Hi Liz! Isn’t that a gorgeous portrait? As far as I know, the attribution as a self-portrait has never been questioned.

Kathy B.: I love that painting, and am so glad to hear that it’s back. The last time I was at the MIA it was in storage. I’ve read quite a bit about her, and she painted several self portraits. Being a woman in a man’s field, she had difficulty finding willing models to sit for her.

Patrick Noon: Liz, the attribution is solid, as is the identification of the sitter, and there are other versions known. Kathy, you are quite correct in your comments, although the painting was not in storage but on loan to an exhibition in Spain. The picture belongs to a private collector and is on long term loan to the MIA, but the owner does enjoy seeing it in other contexts and museums.

Jennifer Ruth M.: Do you know if you will ever have another exhibit of Dale Chihuly’s work? I saw that exhibit a number of times when you ran it before. It took my breath away!

Jennifer Olivarez: Hi Jennifer, I actually was fortunate enough to work on the Chihuly Installations exhibition we had here in 1997. It brought in over 100,000 people and continues to be one of our highest-attended shows. However, we don’t tend to repeat subjects very often, and even less frequently with single-artist exhibitions. So as much as our audience would enjoy another Chihuly show, we’ve moved on to feature great, possibly lesser-known work by craft-based artists such as Ruth Duckworth, Howard Ben Tre, and others. There are so many artists doing great work, and we look forward to continuing to introduce them to you. Maybe we’ll help discover the next Chihuly! Meanwhile, don’t forget to take a gander at our permanent collection piece “Sunburst” in the front lobby the next time you’re here…it’s kind of an unusual form for Chihuly.

Michael D.: Does the MIA get willed paintings, and you ask each other, “What in the world are we going to do with this?”?

Erika Holmquist-Wall: Usually we are made aware of specific bequests ahead of time, so we have some time to plan. The question “what in the world are we going to do with this?” is asked almost daily, especially in relation to installation, conservation, storage, etc. That’s our biggest challenge – figuring out how to work with the objects we have and present them in a meaningful and educational way.

Jennifer Olivarez: Michael, we get bequests for all sorts of objects, and often have to decide whether to accept them or not, if we have that option. Sometimes the person allows us to sell what they’ve given us in order to buy something more appropriate for the collection.

Joe Horse Capture: Just a couple more minutes for questions, or you will have to wait until next month . . .

Jennifer Olivarez: Last call for questions!

Rachel McGarry: Thanks for your questions for the curators!! Ciao, Rachel

Erika Holmquist-Wall: Thanks all! We’ll see you in a few weeks!

Bruce R.: Thanks again everyone for doing The Curator Is In!!!

Petra R.: Thank you for taking the time and answering! :-)

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