A panel on “The Changing Landscape of Museums Today” coincided with the release of the Asia Society Museum’s anthology of essays, Making a Museum in the 21st Century. Responding to a question asked by Josette Sheeran, president and chief executive officer of the Asia Society—“What does a successful museum look like in the twenty-first century?”—the museum directors Richard Armstrong and Melissa Chiu talked about collections, buildings, and exhibitions, while the bureaucrat Tom Finkelpearl zeroed in on diversity and audience.
For artists, the solo exhibition reigns supreme. For curators, it’s the group show. From major events such as the Venice Biennale, Documenta, and Whitney Biennial to curator-driven institutions like the Wattis Institute in San Francisco, Witte de With in Rotterdam, and MoMA PS1 in New York, the authorial curator’s name has typically transcended the artworks on view (or so the story goes). While the art-publishing industry ceaselessly cranks out new books on curatorial issues—nearly always an edited, multiauthored tome—few critical studies have considered the theory and practice of showing the work of a single artist, which is perhaps the bread and butter of art museums worldwide.
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.
The Kitchen invited Hal Foster, a historian, critic, and professor of art at Princeton University, to discuss his two recently published books. After an introduction by Tim Griffin, director and chief curator of the venerable institution, the soft-spoken Foster established the evening’s agenda: he would read from the books before being joined by Griffin (and then the audience) for a Q&A. The following narrative draws from both parts.
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.