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Art Scoping

Author: Maxwell L. Anderson

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Art Scoping is a podcast featuring protagonists in the fields of art, architecture, design, publishing, art law, public policy, and culture generally. We’ll skip the elevator speeches and find out how arts leaders are coping with change, what keeps them up at night, and what gets them out of bed.

37 Episodes
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Arts advocacy takes many forms. In this episode we hear from Alexander Bernstein, president of Artful Learning, and Vice President and Treasurer of The Leonard Bernstein Office. Alex has long championed arts-infused instruction in schools from Florida to Oregon. He comes to the cause naturally; the son of legendary composer, conductor, educator, and humanitarian Leonard Bernstein, Alex is active in extending his father’s legacy, sharing responsibility with his sisters Jamie and Nina in introducing a new generation to extraordinary, wide-ranging contributions across music and related disciplines through public speaking, advocacy, and multiple media platforms. We touch on the state of arts in education, the pandemic’s challenges for musicians, centennial homages to Bernstein including over 6000 events worldwide, and upcoming projects spearheaded by Steven Spielberg and Bradley Cooper.
Discerning museum curators today explore the fashion arts with an eye towards social and political lessons alongside an appreciation of design bravura. This episode’s guest, Petra Slinkard, is a leading voice in the new generation of scholars rethinking how to represent her discipline in compelling and timely displays. As the Director of Curatorial Affairs and The Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, she presides over massive holdings, dating back to the end of the 18th century, when sea captains returned from far-flung ports with evidence of other cultures. Holdings today updated with new acquisitions she discovers on Instagram. You’ll hear her candid thoughts about women designers only now being properly acknowledged, genderless fashion, the unsung heroes of textile conservation, public responsibilities in curating, mannequins in paintings galleries, and insights into how her field is ever-changing.
Episode 34: Evan Beard

Episode 34: Evan Beard

2020-11-01--:--

Curious about who keeps the art market functioning in the midst of a global shutdown? For answers we turn to Evan Beard, the Global Art Services Executive with U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. Evan leads the Bank’s outreach to private and institutional collectors, and shares insights into market trends, the Middle East art market, the genteel world of art lending, considerations when opening a private museum, how auction houses cajole collectors, the Bank of America Art Conservation Project, and the impact of installation art and transitory art experiences on collecting. If you’re a collector or just wondering how those billions of dollars of investments race around the globe, this episode is not to be missed.
Episode 33: John Walsh

Episode 33: John Walsh

2020-10-25--:--

The J. Paul Getty Museum, the world’s wealthiest, was shaped under the steady hand of Dr. John Walsh, a renowned scholar of Dutch art. In this episode we glean a bit about his work as a curator and director, and dive into topical matters: Museums during the pandemic, commercialization of exhibitions, his role as a witness defending Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center’s exhibition of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe and its then director at a trial accusing them of promoting obscenity, decades-long neglect of advancing racial equity in museums, due diligence when researching antiquities collections, advice for new directors, and a brief preview of his forthcoming lectures on Rembrandt.
We are binging on shows over streaming platforms as never before during the pandemic. In this episode we turn to award-winning actress Sarah Wynter to learn how the film and television industry has navigated COVID-19, beginning with the March 2020 diagnosis of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson in Sarah’s native Australia. We hear about shooting around shower curtains, love scenes with mannequins, how actors are staying in touch with fans and each other, cultural differences between Australia and the States, her reflections on playing the character Kate Warner opposite Kiefer Sutherland in 24, televised portrayals of terrorism, and her dedication to protecting people from gun violence through the organization Moms Demand Action. Follow her on Twitter and on Instagram.
The headlines are everywhere: Multiple museums are today selling artworks to cope with financial challenges brought on by the pandemic. In this episode, the past chair of the Professional Issues Committee of the Association of Art Museum Directors, James H. Duff, shares why and how AAMD arrived at restrictions on “deaccessioning” decades ago, and the impact of AAMD’s April 2020 resolution relaxing those restrictions. We discuss why so much art is typically in storage, and consider potential threats, including a mandate to capitalize collections—putting their fair market value on museum balance sheets—and the risk that private collectors will be discouraged from donating artworks to museums that might sell them to cover operating costs. Or the possibility that cash contributions to museums will decline once capitalized art collections are fungible—transforming the image of a museum from that of an educational institution to an entity with suddenly liquid holdings valued in millions or even billions of dollars.
Isolation is an unwanted obligation for everyone as long as the pandemic lasts, but for voice actors, it’s the preferred state of being year-round. In this episode we venture (virtually) into the recording booth at ButtonsNY, an approved recording facility that meets the Covid-19 Protection Guidelines of SAG/AFTRA, to speak with award-winning interdisciplinary performing artist and voiceover artist Danielle Quisenberry. We learn how she helps film and stage actors adapt to the rigors of voiceover work given the realities of shuttered cinemas and theaters, common misperceptions about the discipline, secrets of the craft, her training of talent at Edge Studio, and interdisciplinary projects she’s completed and those on the horizon. She’s coached multiple audiobook narrators, including the pseudonymous performer found here.
What can we predict about post-pandemic urban planning? For answers we turn to Aaron Betsky, director of Virginia Tech's School of Architecture + Design, and a widely published critic on art, architecture and design. We touch on the required adaptation of office buildings, prescient predictions he made two decades ago, the need to focus on ‘upcycling’, or repurposing building stock, expanded use of post offices, the need to rethink museum design, and urgent concerns bearing down on designers due to economic and racial disparity, climate change, and other pressures.
This episode has us bouncing from Harvard to Washington to the Netherlands to Mali, led there by Dr. Cynthia Schneider, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University. She began her career with a PhD from Harvard in Dutch art, serving as Assistant Curator of European Paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, then a professor of art history at Georgetown University for two decades, during which she was appointed Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands by President Clinton, followed by her appointment as a Distinguished Professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. In addition to her teaching duties there, she is Co-Director of three endeavors: the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown University, MOST Resource; and Timbuktu Renaissance. Her recent and very candid assessments of the Trump administration’s diplomatic blunders are required reading.
Art history has of late been more art and less history. University enrollment in pre-contemporary art is dwindling, and cost-intensive mega-exhibitions of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism are stilled as the pandemic roars on. For perspective we turn to one of the world’s leading experts in 19th century painting, Dr. George T.M. Shackelford, Deputy Director of Fort Worth’s Kimbell Art Museum. He shares anecdotes about our shared summer as interns at the Metropolitan Museum of Art after we graduated from Dartmouth, along with details about reopening the Kimbell, how training in art history is faring, his experience with debunking a would-be masterpiece, the urgency of recruiting students of color to the museum profession, and upcoming shows in Fort Worth.
For truth-telling in the world of finance, we turn to Lola C. West, co-founder and partner of WestFuller Advisors, a boutique investment advisory firm in New York City that builds legacies of wealth for individuals, families and institutions. A trustee of Souls Grown Deep Community Partnership and Foundation, she shares insights on the intersections among social change, culture, and finance, and the alleviation of poverty in the Deep South, and lets us into the rarefied world of investing—leavened with the determination of a woman seeking a more progressive America.
We’re lucky to have a chance to hear from Arnold Lehman, senior adviser to the chairman of Phillips auction house, and director emeritus of the Brooklyn Museum. We dive straight into some very timely topics, including the slow pace of change in art museums grappling with their responsibilities in furthering racial and social justice, how media coverage influences the field, if and how New York will bounce back after the pandemic recedes, and his forthcoming book on the exhibition Sensation. We even pull back the curtain to discuss the nominating committees of art museum boards—and close with the moving account of his enduring attachment to a particular work of art.
We take a step outside into the world of horticulture, and then back into art museums, safely masked, for a conversation with Dr. Carrie Rebora Barratt, CEO and William C. Steere Sr. President of The New York Botanical Garden, and previously deputy director for collections and administration at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We cover a lot of ground, from how cultural institutions began in New York City starting in 1870, to the social responsibilities of all kinds of cultural institutions, changing visitor experiences in compromised spaces, the disappearance of tourism, prevailing approaches to American art history, and her star turn a few years ago as a guest of the Colbert Report. 
Art museum directors are challenged as never before, confronting the pandemic, demands for social and racial justice, low morale among staff who have survived layoffs, and evaporated earned revenue. The woman of the hour to sort it all out is Dr. Elizabeth Easton, former chair of the Department of European Painting and Sculpture at the Brooklyn Museum, the first elected president of the Association of Art Museum Curators, and Co-Founder and current Director of the Center for Curatorial Leadership, who is preparing a new wave of hires to tackle these and other challenges. Our wide-ranging conversation includes the different challenges facing contemporary and encyclopedic museums, trends in scholarship, how boards think about hiring—and firing—directors, the search firms that elevate some candidates above others, and likely shifts in the articulation of art museum missions.
It’s safe to assume that the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is unaware that America’s oldest treaty is with Morocco, the first nation to recognize the fledging United States in December 1777. The breadth of American ignorance about Islamic history, art, and culture is unfathomable, but fortunately we have Dr. Sabiha Al Khemir joining this episode, sharing details of her journey from Tunisia to a PhD from London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, to becoming the founding director of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. As a curator who has shaped and contributed to multiple exhibitions presented at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, the Dallas Museum of Art, and elsewhere, she is a writer, novelist, illustrator, and producer, and today serves as consulting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Anthropology and Archaeology.
Many of America’s art museums have been the target of blunt criticism for over a year, first for accepting funds derived from pharmaceutical manufacturers, fossil fuel companies, and arms merchants, and more recently for employment practices disadvantageous to people of color. While there is no single remedy for alleged shortcomings in governance and management, one option is available for these institutions to align their practices with stated values. An estimated $58 billion is under the management of cultural institutions in the United States. The founder of Upstart Co-Lab, Laura Callanan, joins the podcast, offering concrete advice on how mission-aligned investing can set cultural organizations onto a better path, putting their resources to work in furtherance of progressive goals, while not sacrificing financial return.
What can museums do to earn trust in their stated commitment to racial justice? For answers we turn to Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Deputy Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. And hear about her childhood home in Atlanta, a hub for civil rights advocates from Julian Bond to Stokely Carmichael. A life spent leading cultural institutions devoted to African American creativity and history. Along the way we’re treated to richly textured anecdotes about her times with Congressman John Lewis, the Rev. C.T. Vivian, and many others, her hopes that younger people will drive social change, displays in the NMAAHC that move her--and concrete advice on how museums can move from stated intentions to true equity and inclusion.
America is unique in harboring a sizable population of the scientifically disinclined—or more bluntly, climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers. Riding to the rescue on a motorcycle is our guest Dr. Julian Siggers. the Williams Director of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology since 2012, and the newly appointed president and CEO of Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History. We delve into how, after receiving a PhD in human prehistory, he became the host of a series on the Discovery Channel and made his way into museums. He discusses the life of an archaeologist, ethical concerns facing museums, the impact of data science, how schooling differs between the UK and the US, why trade in dinosaur bones isn’t regulated, and multiple other topics. 
Graphic identities abound in our media-saturated world—and in this episode we turn to a globally-renowned expert and practitioner to help us understand how he goes about inventing the typefaces, logos, and brand identities of leading art museums including the Guggenheim and the Whitney, the Barnes Foundation, and countless other cultural and commercial clients over many years. Abbott Miller has been a partner at Pentagram since 1999, and he has created multiple award-winning solutions worldwide. You’ll learn about the influences of his training at Cooper Union, the lasting impact of the Bauhaus in his field, the emotional underpinnings of the typefaces we take for granted, and his opinion of the graphic identities of the two competing presidential campaigns.
Designing museums and concert halls demands a blend of experience, talent, and vision. Richard Olcott, Design Partner at Ennead Architects in New York City, brings the right blend and a sense of play to a serious profession. In this episode we learn about whether, in the face of the pandemic, clients are still lining up (they are), museums will return to business as usual (they won’t), and how the Spanish Flu of 1918 was central to the birth of modernism and the International Style of architecture (wait, what?). We discuss digital tools, the blight of ‘supertalls’ casting shadows across New York’s Central Park, indoor vertical gardens and other moves towards sustainability, whether ‘open office’ designs are doomed, and multiple other topics.
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