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Monday 10.23.06

« Two Opportunities to Hear Karrie Jacobs Speak | Main | Favorite Buildings in Portland? »

Welcoming PAM's new chief

Today, Brian Ferriso started his new job as director of the Portland Art Museum, the big kahuna on Oregon's cultural scene. The O had an interview yesterday, with a lot of thoughtfully measured answers by Ferriso. There was also the paper's general attempt at creating a huge hullabaloo over the cost of the Mark building's renovation. Let's just say Ferriso has worked (with grace) under much more difficult financial situations. Although he wasn't the man in charge, the Milwaukee Art Museum's gorgeous but hugely expensive 100 million dollar +??? Santiago Calatrava expansion caused them to take truly drastic actions. Under that kind of difficult situation he was eventually promoted from senior director of curatorial affairs to deputy director. The message, this is a talented guy who can make lemonade with lemons. PAM's situation is much better. Here are some long and short term things to consider.

(Long Term Changes)

1) Portland is in the process of defining itself, not just to itself but to the rest of the world and the museum is one of the biggest bellwether's of how the city positions itself. This isn't Tulsa or Milwaukee (where Im from). Instead, Portland is becoming the alternative city for progressive thinking, often design conscious individuals in the US.... i.e. it is a more European model. Portland is a laboratory and should take the role seriously. The choice of Ferriso bucks the recent trend of flashy museum directors, which is very good (we don't need a Krens). Still, Portland needs some firm hand leadership to get anything done, this isn't a city where the obvious happens without a lot of effort (what is amazing about Portland is the not-so-obvious and damn near improbable can almost be counted on to occur).

2) Money for major acquisitions in modern and contemporary art needs to happen, an endowment or two would help too (who is the tricky part). Regular press announcements of said acquisitions would be a good thing too. Much needed are major pieces by Rothko (who grew up in Portland and had his first solo show at the museum), Warhol, Rosenquist, Lichtenstein, Pollock, Johns, De Kooning, Franz Klein, Hans Hofmann, Ad Reinhardt, Agnes Martin, Basquiat, Ellsworth Kelly, Richter, Rist, Kiefer, Nauman, Koons and Rauschenberg. Most of these works exist in town and undoubtedly chief curator Bruce Guenther is already working on it. The message, don't just support his efforts, make it a top priority for the museum.

3) This city is full of serious design heads, I don't see many of them at museum shows. It isn't hard to bring them in they're a curious and bright bunch (they just shun gilded antiquities shows, and cramped installations). Any major show by McElheny, Judd, Zittel, Tuttle, minimalists, Franz West etc. will go over huge here... in fact the city is starved for it. Make certain to add something to the collection from the show too.

4) Once we get large scale contemporary art shows at the museum again PAM needs to make certain they are publicized both internationally and locally.

(Short Term Fixes)

1) What is with the new museum logo? In a city with so many designers this just doesn't cut it.

2) The new membership desk at the new entrance is both awful to look at and screws up one of the better galleries for looking at art in the building. It screams "winery decor", not "art museum."

3) We hear that the rental/sales gallery is moving. Good, that is supposed to be an exhibition space... once freed of commerce the combined Lewis and Clark galleries might allow the curators to do what they do best, curate shows.

4) The museum needs a museum blog (and a serious web overhaul). In fact, the museum staff currently reads PORT to find out what is going on... of course that's flattering but we only cover the things our readers are most interested in, which tends to be more contemporary or modern art oriented offerings. The museum has so much going on it is impossible to catch it all.

Overall, I'm glad the board filled the position quickly as a lot of very scattered stuff was starting to occur. To be formal about it, welcome to a most interesting place Mr. Ferriso. We are glad you are here.

Posted by Jeff Jahn on October 23, 2006 at 21:55 | Comments (6)


Is the ugly rectangular tribal piece the new PAM logo? I can't remember the old from the new. If it is, then some graphic designer somewhere needs to be fired.

Posted by: Calvin Carl [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2006 12:40 AM

Incidentally, the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Museum (also in Baltimore) both went to free-admission every day. I would be very nice if PAM could at least take the step of a regularly scheduled free First Thursday.

Posted by: SimEnzo [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2006 05:09 AM

The new logo is easy to find on printed press materials but nonexistant on the web. It has the letters "A" "R" "T" in boldface amongst the words "PORTLAND MUSEUM."

The issue of free days is tricky... it generally takes corporate sponsorship and corporate sponsorship for the arts in Portland lags way behind a place like Milwaukee Wisconsin... eventhough Portland is larger and a lot more dynamic culturally. (I'm not bagging on MKE, they do some things a lot better than Portland, including museum logos).

Posted by: Double J [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2006 10:02 AM

Or city support (which is helping the Walters and the BMA with their new free admission policy).

Posted by: SimEnzo [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2006 11:55 AM

I'm in grad school and even though I cringe when handing over the little bit of spare cash I have for the entrance fee, I still think itís the best option. Not only do I hope that the money Iím contributing will help the museum obtain work or curate more interesting shows, but I worry about the compromises that might happen with corporate endorsement. Iíd like to think that the museum is striving to put together shows to challenge and enrich Portland and hope that patrons would rather pay the cost of a couple of beers to support them.

Posted by: minimum [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2006 08:55 PM

Along with the blog idea, I think the museum also needs to enrich discussion on art at all levels in Portland. For example, host more lectures and other discussions.

I would like free days as well, but I think the only way this will happen is with more corporate sponsorship. At least in the past this hasn't been overdone with compromises to the corporation. Other ideas: What about free evening for those stuck in the 9-5? ... time to get creative.

yeah, Rothko acquisition!

new logo sucks...

Posted by: bradc [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 25, 2006 12:04 PM

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