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September 2005 Vol. 24 No.7
A publication of the International Sculpture Center

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From the Director

Reading a recent issue of The New Yorker, I was struck by a quotation from Glenn Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art. Speaking of the significant contribution made to MoMA by its benefactor and trustee David Rockefeller, Lowry said, “I think his greatest gift to the museum is his constant belief that the future is going to be at least as interesting as the past. It’s amazing to be 90 years old and that curious.”

What first caught my attention was the earnest acknowledgement that, in the end, it’s one’s beliefs and values that make the greatest contribution. The past is readily accessible—we can all see it for ourselves, even if we don’t always agree on an interpretation. But the future? For many, it is too scary to think about; for others, its vague outlines paint too foggy a picture for serious consideration. For a sculptor, however, the future is everything: how a piece will look, feel, fit in, or just be. It is always about the next step and the work after that, what the future will bring to allow the creation of another work. Perhaps the most exciting thing for an artist is the future. I must confess to at least a bit of the trained historian’s preference for the past and the story of how things came to be—yet, for all its fascination, the past is no more than a prelude and foundation for the present we are living and the future we are expecting.

Lowry linked an open welcome of the future and its changes with an open and probing mind. I agree. To stay curious and engaged as one grows older is perhaps the best gift. It maintains the desire to keep looking and thinking and uncovering things. It is the need to stay informed, to be aware of what is happening and why. It is the excitement of learning something new or suddenly seeing something extremely familiar with fresh eyes.

How do openness and curiosity translate into today’s art world? Although we await the yearly shows of “new talent“ in galleries and local museums, a real commitment to the future, to future generations is missing. These shows seem more like perfunctory commercial products—the marketing of youthful trendiness for the sake of novelty—rather than sincere explorations of possible directions.

Considering all the spaces new and old that are out there (many incidentally in need of directors and curators), few fill their spaces with vision. Certain artists are “discovered,” the great euphemistic word, later in life. But few institutions will take the risk of showing a seasoned artist—not someone young or new but someone who has dedicated a few decades to producing work. When does a sculptor’s work take hold, creating and informing an audience? Who will show the full range of work that is out there to be seen?

In his recent book on art criticism, What Happened to Art Criticism?, art historian James Elkins writes about the end of a practice that was once engaged, passionate, and historically informed. The same may be said of the other side of the house, the institutions that present works of art, including sculpture. What can and should we expect from these institutions? Will we see exhibitions that engage us, provoke us, excite us, or cause us to rethink aspects of works we know, or will we be happy to remain passive consumers? There is much to be done, which is a good sign for the future.

Michael Klein
ISC Executive Director

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