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Sunday 01.22.06

« Chris Johanson Lecture at PSU Jan 23rd | Main | Report from France (Part I) »

Goose & gander the Oregonian on PAM's direction

D.K. Row had a nice probing article on the future of the Portland Art Museum now that the Buchannan's have left. Good work, the O might not be able to discuss Danto and art the way PORT can but let's be fair we aren't a generalist publication and can indulge in intellectual pursuits. This is why the Oregonian is completely outpacing the WWeek in visual art coverage and providing the goods in a way most mid-sized city newspapers do not. I'd love to see the WWeek at least attempt to keep up by having their first feature article on art since October!

As far as the article details go some things need to be countered and fleshed out (feel free to comment):

First, the museum already quantitatively dedicates more space to local artists than nearly any similar large generalist museum I can think of (with an entire wing). The new northwest curator position should address the qualitative issue. The real question is, will PAM balance its blockbuster programming with more serious curatorial efforts? It is about covering all the bases and when the Rosenquist retrospective didn't come here as it was first announced to, it stung... a lot. If a similar major retrospective or two were to come here it would be long overdue.

Still, the newly minted Meigs endowment shows like the current Sophie Calle and upcoming Roxy Paine exhibitions do help more than a bit. Yes, there is room to do more shows like the Keinholtz (2003) and New in Town (2002) as well. It's been too long and now that construction has stopped there are opportunities. As for the Oregon Biennial, it will only be relevant if it makes relevant statements. The Bay Area Now shows do this and the 1999 Biennial arguably did so as well, it jump started the current explosion in scene activity (leaders like Michael Knutson, Sean Healy, Tom Cramer, Jacqueline Ehlis, Kristan Kennedy, Storm Tharp, and Brendan Clenaghen are 1999 alums who have only matured since then). Ironically, except for Cramer the O blasts or ignores these very good artists (by any scene's standards) while blasting the museum for similar caprices. Look, what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

As for directors the PAM board (+ the Oregonian and public in general), they need to understand that Portland is filled to the gills with a hoard of interested artists (both young and old) as well as newcomers from other more culturally developed cities (some of these individuals have serious financial portfolios and collections but have stayed out of PAM and PICA's searchlights because the institutions were rightly percieved as inconsistent). These "untapped" people by and large have sophisticated tastes and their attendance at warehouse shows and the Affair at the Jupiter indicate a hard-core constituency of thousands exists. So much for hurting attendance.

Contemporary art isn't the financial doom that the previous regime and the O suspect. In fact, it might help the museum more than anyone but a few insiders suspect. One of Portland's charms is how older patrons and youngsters actually mix at warehouse shows; it's a way to stay young/network depending on where you are in life. A moderate director can move the museum and city forward and institutionalize this fountain of youth and ambition by blessing the interaction (example: collector Bonnie Serkin recently comissioned Chandra Bocci for the Museum's contemporary art council holiday party). There needs to be more of that demographic mixing and I suggest a "moderate" director because I don't believe that big museums need to be the vanguard anymore, even MoMA doesn't/can't do that. That is for the warehouses and younger institutions. What the Museum needs to do is simply get in on some of that action and engage/support the best of it. It's already happening but there will be several litmus tests this year that will test the all important follow through.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on January 22, 2006 at 16:37 | Comments (0)


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