The symposium on “The Relationships between Artists and Museums”—featuring David Bourdon, Richard Hennessy, Diane Kelder, Barbara Rose, and Marcia Tucker—was a formal display of sparring and volleying between five panelists, some of whom raised genuine questions. A few presented themselves as ideologues. Only the final speaker attempted answers.
Concluding the two-day symposium on the work of Jeff Koons was a keynote address by the art historian Thomas Crow of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. By choosing a single decade—Crow’s talk was titled “Jeff Koons in the 1980s: Pop Culture Turns Up Late”—the scholar conveniently avoided discussing the artist’s work since the early 1990s, typically considered the divisive break between those who respect and loathe the artist, in particular when Koons exhibited his Made in Heaven series (1989–91). Indeed, in a review of the Whitney Museum of American Art’s exhibition Jeff Koons: A Retrospective, one critic wrote, “Watching Koons between 1985 and 1992 was like being on a roller coaster, beholding the readymade crossed with greed, money, creepy beauty, and the ugliness of our culture.” Even the exhibition’s curator, Scott Rothkopf, skirted the later work in his catalogue essay “No Limits,” which analyzes Koons’s work up to Made in Heaven before defending the artist against the art market for the last half.
The second and final panel on the symposium for the Jewish Museum’s exhibition Jack Goldstein x 10,000 featured presentations by two artists—Kathryn Andrews and Paul Pfeiffer—who emerged a couple generations after Jack Goldstein. Neither artist was directly influenced by Goldstein, as they arrived at their aesthetic approach prior to gaining knowledge of the elder artist’s work. One of two panel moderators, Claire Bishop, described the situation as “reverse engineering.” While hers was certainly a clever use of the phrase, the concept is standard operating procedure for scholars making connections between the art of different decades. That doesn’t mean artists don’t have a say, and here is what they said about Goldstein and influence.
Following the symposium’s keynote presentation, the first panel featured two figures from the highly influential Pictures Generation—the artists Robert Longo and Matt Mullican—along with Morgan Fisher, a substitute for the absent Troy Brauntuch. The panel’s moderator, Julia Robinson of New York University, introduced the speakers and loosely moderated a discussion on their personal and professional experiences with the artist Jack Goldstein, the subject of a retrospective at the Jewish Museum.
An afternoon symposium that coincided with the Jewish Museum exhibition’s Jack Goldstein x 10,000 began with a keynote presentation by the artist and filmmaker Morgan Fisher. Upon accepting the invitation to speak, Fisher stated that he purposely didn’t read the literature on the artist that he hadn’t already, in order not to be an “imposter” among the critics and historians. Thus he spoke of what he knew.
The coffee break after the second section was much welcomed, but the talk by Amelia Jones, professor and Grierson Chair at McGill University in Montreal, did little to alleviate my annoyance from the previous section. Jones presented new research on how to think about art after 1960, proposing a shift from object to process and how this shift relates to globalization, digital networking, and a sense of placelessness.
The symposium’s middle part, “Agency of the Everyday,” was a disappointment. Covering Italy ca. 1970, the gregarious Romy Golan, professor of twentieth-century art at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, discussed a few important exhibitions in the country, such as Vitality of the Negative (1970–71), in which each artist received his own room to create kinetic, interactive art, often with elements of refraction, reflection, and projections (and thus without objects). The environments, Golan said, evoked a fun house or nightclub.
Despite its alarming title, the symposium “States of Emergency: Objects as Agency circa 1970” was a placidly academic affair, in which discussions revolved around Lee Ufan: Marking Infinity, an exhibition concluding its summer run in the spiral of the Solomon R. Guggenheim’s Frank Lloyd Wright building in New York.
In response to the uncertain future of the Bibliography of the History of Art (BHA), and concerned with helping anticipate and facilitate new developments in art scholarship, the Getty Research Institute organized two meetings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the ARTstor office in New York on April 20–21, 2010.