The first history of the deaccession of objects from museum collections that defends deaccession as an essential component of museum practice. Museums often stir controversy when they deaccession works—formally remove objects from permanent collections—with some critics accusing them of betraying civic virtue and the public trust. In fact, Martin Gammon argues in Deaccessioning and Its Discontents, deaccession has been an essential component of the museum experiment for centuries. Gammon offers the first critical history of deaccessioning by museums from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century, and exposes the hyperbolic extremes of “deaccession denial”—the assumption that deaccession is always wrong—and “deaccession apology”—when museums justify deaccession by finding some fault in the object—as symptoms of the same misunderstanding of the role of deaccessions in proper museum practice. He chronicles a series of deaccession events in Britain and the United States that range from the disastrous to the beneficial, and proposes a typology of principles to guide future deaccessions. Gammon describes the liquidation of the British Royal Collections after Charles I's execution—when masterworks were used as barter to pay the king's unpaid bills—as establishing a precedent for future deaccessions. He recounts, among other episodes, U.S. Civil War veterans who tried to reclaim their severed limbs from museum displays; the 1972 “Hoving affair,” when the Metropolitan Museum of Art sold a number of works to pay for a Velázquez portrait; and Brandeis University's decision (later reversed) to close its Rose Art Museum and sell its entire collection of contemporary art. An appendix provides the first extensive listing of notable deaccessions since the seventeenth century. Gammon ultimately argues that vibrant museums must evolve, embracing change, loss, and reinvention.
Light, considered the purest embodiment of the divine, is the basis of all art to one degree or another, so why not make art out of light? Dan Flavin (1933-96), an innovative and prolific American sculptor who can be considered an abstract, minimalist, and installation artist, chose as his medium commercial fluorescent tubes, and with these everyday lights created works of radiant and evocative beauty. Flavin had many major shows and created a number of permanent public installations; now his work is being celebrated in a magnificent retrospective exhibition that will travel across the country. This handsomely produced volume by Govan, director of the Dia Art Foundation, and Bell, who worked with Flavin, presents exquisite photographs of Flavin's seminal light compositions and expert biographical and critical assessments. Citing Byzantine icons, William Ockham, and Barnett Newman as influences, Flavin created ravishingly beautiful colors and profoundly nuanced constructions with seemingly banal industrial materials, transforming ordinary spaces into places of wonder. For a definitive catalog see Dan Flavin: The Complete Lights, 1961-1996
We have long saved--and curated--objects from wars to commemorate the war experience. These objects appear at national museums and memorials and are often mentioned in war novels and memoirs. Through them we institutionalize narratives and memories of national identity, as well as international power and purpose. While people interpret war in different ways, and there is no ultimate authority on the experiences of any war, curators of war objects make different choices about what to display or write about, none of which are entirely problematic, good, or accurate. This book asks whose vantage points on war are made available, and where, for public consumption; it also questions whose war experiences are not represented, are minimized, or ignored in ways that advantage contemporary militarism. Christine Sylvester looks at four sites of war memory-the National Museum of American History, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and selected novels and memoirs of the American wars in Vietnam and Iraq-to consider the way war knowledge is embedded in differing sites of memory and display. While the museum shows war aircraft and a laptop computer used by a journalist covering the American war in Iraq, visitors to the Vietnam Memorial or Arlington Cemetery find more prosaic and civilian items on view, such as baby pictures, slices of birthday cake, or even car keys. In addition, memoirs and novels of these wars tend to curate ghastly horrors of wars as experienced by soldiers or civilians. For Sylvester, these sites of war memory and curation provide ways to understand dispersed war authority and interpretation and to consider which sites invite viewers to revere a war and which reflect personal experiences that show the undersides of these wars. Sylvester shows that scholars, policymakers, and other citizens need to consider different types of situated memory and knowledge in order to fully grasp war, rather than idealize it.
by National Gallery of Victoria. Council of Trustees
Fifteen Australian women writers were asked to respond to the colour purple. In their hands, purple takes on many meanings. There are stories about Tyrian purple, a snippet of King George's coronation gown, pigeon fanciers, the Dockers' Purple Haze and their layers are explored through themes of feminism, multiculturalism, artists and aging, mothers and daughters and aunts. This is a book for women readers everywhere.
This volume investigates Pacific collections held in Australian museums, art galleries and archives, and the diverse group of 19th and 20th century collectors responsible for their acquisition. The nineteen essays reveal varied personal and institutional motivations that eventually led to the conservation, preservation and exhibition in Australia of a remarkable archive of Pacific Island material objects, art and crafts, photographs and documents. Hunting the Collectors benchmarks the importance of Pacific Collections in Australia and is a timely contribution to the worldwide renaissance of interest in Oceanic arts and cultures. The essays suggest that the custodial role is not fixed and immutable but fluctuates with the perceived importance of the collection, which in turn fluctuates with the level of national interest in the Pacific neighbourhood. This cyclical rise and fall of Australian interest in the Pacific Islands means many of the valuable early collections in state and later national repositories and institutions have been rarely exhibited or published. But, as the authors note, enthusiastic museum anthropologists, curators, collection managers and university-based scholars across Australia, and worldwide, have persisted with research on material collected in the Pacific.
Max Pechstein (1881–1955) is one of the most prominent German artists of the twentieth century, not least because of his crucial role in the breakthrough of German Expressionism. This long overdue biography combines the portrayal of an outstanding artistic personality with the story of an individual German who struggled through the political upheavals of his time. Pechstein's work is presented in the cultural context of museum politics and art associations, art dealers and critics, market forces and cultural trends.
This collection of critical essays celebrates the subversive and challenging creativity of the Dada movement, born in pacifist Zurich in 1916 in violent reaction to the First World War. It examines the collective and individual activities that took place under the name of Dada in Zurich, Cologne, Berlin, Paris, New York and Barcelona, and explores the various creative forms employed, including text, collage, photomontage, objects, dance, performance and film. The authors suggest new ways of understanding the work of the most famous Dadaists, while also casting light on the contribution of hitherto neglected figures. Far from attempting to reduce Dada to a homogeneous movement, or to define a unifying principle beneath and beyond the multiple directions taken by Dadaists, this collection aims to respect the diversity and heterogeneity of the movement's collective activities as well as the specificity of its individual actors.
This prize-winning book offers the only comprehensive discussion available on materials, techniques, and condition issues in Western easel paintings from medieval times to the present. “An essential handbook for the pro, and also a beautifully illustrated primer for the layperson. Kirsh and Levenson teach the most valuable lessons about painting of all: how meanings, material, and techniques are bound up together.”—John Walsh, former director, J. Paul Getty Museum “Every element of Kirsh and Levenson's book is smart, concise, and informative. . . . [It is] the essential book on its subject.”—Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle “A long overdue book with direct relevance for modern students of the history of art.”—Libby Sheldon, Burlington Magazine
Rosalie Gascoigne (1917–1999) was a highly regarded Australian artist whose assemblages of found materials embraced landscape, still life, minimalism, arte povera and installations. She was 57 when she had her first exhibition. Behind this late coming-out lay a long and unusual preparation in looking at nature for its aesthetic qualities, collecting found objects, making flower arrangements and practising ikebana. Her art found an appreciative audience from the start. She was a people person, and it pleased her that through her exhibiting career of 25 years, her works were acquired by people of all ages, interests and backgrounds, as well as by the major public institutions on both sides of the Tasman Sea.
A brand new look at the extremely beautiful, if underappreciated, later works of one of the most inventive artists of the 20th century Between 1935 and his death at midcentury, Henri Matisse (1869-1954) undertook many decorative projects and commissions. These include mural paintings, stained glass, ceramic tiles, lead crystal pieces, carpets, tapestries, fashion fabrics, and accessories--work that has received no significant treatment until now. By presenting a wealth of new insights and unpublished material, including from the artist's own correspondence, John Klein, an internationally acclaimed specialist in the art of Matisse, offers a richer and more balanced view of Matisse's ambitions and achievements in the often-neglected later phases of his career. Matisse designed many of these decorations in the innovative--and widely admired--medium of the paper cut-out, whose function and significance Klein reevaluates. Matisse and Decoration also opens a window onto the revival and promotion, following World War II, of traditional French decorative arts as part of France's renewed sense of cultural preeminence. For the first time, the idea of the decorative in Matisse's work and the actual decorations he designed for specific settings are integrated in one account, amounting to an understanding of this modern master's work that is simultaneously more nuanced and more comprehensive.