International Sculpture Center
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April 2005 Vol.24 No.3
A publication of the International Sculpture Center

Complete text in print version available at fine newsstands and through subscription.

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From the Chairman

During this transition period, I’ve gone from looking at sculpture with a curatorial eye—Where can we put it? How much is it? Will it work in that location?—to considering it from the position of an advocate. I think about how sculpture is discussed, how we understand it, and how we make a place for it in contemporary life and culture. Reviewing past issues of Sculpture magazine and talking with people interested in the field, one nagging issue keeps reappearing—the care of sculpture.

When I was at Microsoft, the usual comment I heard was “Wow, what a great job—you get to look at and buy art.” Yes, it was a great job and now there is a great collection at Microsoft, but one of the main issues for any curator is the care of works of art after they are purchased.

This past fall, the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas, hosted a professional conference, “Variable States: Intention, Appearance, and Interpretation in Modern Sculpture,” which addressed some preservation issues. This magazine constantly reports issues arising from the maintenance (or lack thereof) of public artworks. In fact, there have been numerous cases of sculptures being removed because of conservation issues—not because the problem could not be fixed and the sculpture repaired, but because the community or commissioning agent failed to provide maintenance funds or, worse yet, did not use specifically allocated moneys for upkeep, so that the end result was to pull the piece down in the interest of public safety. This is a convenient form of editorializing, of course, but I find it very worrisome that there is no law mandating that if an individual, organization, or government entity uses public funds to commission and install works of art, then they must be responsible for the subsequent care of that work. New Yorkers and the rest of America woke up to the need for architectural preservation only the day after Pennsylvania Station was demolished, and a piece of the city’s remarkable history was destroyed.

With the enormous amount of money being spent on the arts, with the building of new public art projects nationwide and the construction of arts centers, Joel Kotkin’s illuminating essay “Suburban Culture: SUVs, Soccer and, Now, Symphonies” (Wall Street Journal, 1/19/05) is required reading. It is time for sculptors and those committed to sculpture specifically and public art in general to demand the safeguarding of public artworks. We need to save older works and those monuments being built in our lifetime. We need to reinforce their importance in our daily lives—despite the words of the stumblebum armchair critic from CBS’s “60 Minutes”—and protect them for future generations. We hope to begin planning soon for a new conference (location yet undecided) on Sculpture Parks and Gardens, including university programs as well, and publish a Third Edition of our Sculpture Parks & Gardens Directory. This topic will certainly be an important part of our future discussions.

Michael Klein
ISC Executive Director

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