Posts tagged with "curators":

Henry Urbach on curating architecture, The Glass House, and what’s next for him

The Architect’s Newspaper Editor-in-Chief William Menking sat down with Henry Urbach to discuss Urbach’s long and varied career as a dealer of architecture drawings, curator at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and director of the Philip Johnson Glass House.

The Architect’s Newspaper: You have had a varied career as a gallery owner, curator, writer, and museum director. How did you get started in these various activities?

Henry Urbach: It began while I was a graduate student at Princeton and I started to take note of experimental architecture as a form of cultural production that is compelling on its own terms. There were many interesting projects but few spaces dedicated to exhibiting them. That was the genesis of Henry Urbach Architecture, which opened to the public in 1997. I wanted to create a new platform for experimental architecture by making use of the gallery model. The gallery was a calling, and a bit of a stretch. I had no gallery experience and no money, but a lot of determination and, slowly but surely, people who got behind the idea, as artists and architects, as audience and patrons, and there was tremendous press support. I think I was very lucky.

You became a curator of architecture before it became a fashionable career. Why did it occur to you to become active in this field?

As the gallery’s profile grew I developed relationships with curators and institutions worldwide. SFMOMA approached me at the perfect moment, about ten years into the life of the gallery and at a time when real estate and other costs were skyrocketing in New York. The museum offered a wonderful platform to continue exhibiting work, developing new commissions, and, in general, exploring what it means to present architecture.

Curating has become professionalized in the past few years with university graduate programs devoted to it and many young people looking to it as a career. What do you think of these recent developments in the art and architecture world?

I think it’s wonderful that there’s this kind of interest, and now opportunities, for formal education. Curating in architecture used to be something of a gentleman’s sport or sideline; it deserves to be treated as a proper discipline with its own history, theory, and practices.

I remember the show of Lebbeus Woods and Kiki Smith. What other shows did you curate at the gallery that were memorable?

We did over 55 exhibitions, so it’s a hard question for me to answer! Some of the other memorable installations by architects include LOT-EK’s Mixer, Freecell Architecture’s MoistSCAPE, and R&Sie’s Mosquito Bottleneck.

Did you close the gallery when you moved to San Francisco? Why have architecture galleries devoted to drawings and professional work always had a hard time succeeding as businesses?

I closed the gallery shortly before moving to San Francisco. The market for architecture, especially more experimental and contemporary work, remains very limited.

How long were you in San Francisco, and what shows did you curate there that stand out?

My first exhibition was the global premiere of Olafur Eliasson’s BMW Art Car, made of steel and ice and exhibited in a walk-in freezer. We did Jürgen Mayer’s first museum exhibition, as well as Tobias Wong’s. The largest exhibition was a collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro called How Wine Became Modern: Design + Wine 1976 to Now.

There were also shows dealing with the permanent collection through thematic probes, such as an exhibition on the architectural section, one on the process of building a museum collection, and one on the body and architecture called Sensate that included new commissions by Andrew Kudless and Alex Schweder.

In 2012 you became director of The Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. It seems like most of your shows there brought artists to create a conversation with the house and even Philip Johnson’s legacy. How would you describe your mandate for programming at The Glass House?

You’re absolutely right. The idea was to take the historic site and transform it into a new platform for contemporary work by artists and architects that could develop compelling dialogues with the house and its author. The most elaborate of these was Fujiko Nakaya’s Veil, which produced a billowing cloud of mist that allowed The Glass House to occasionally disappear.

What will you do for your next act?

Currently I’m on sabbatical in Tel Aviv, where I’ve been exploring the lively art and design scene while working on several writing projects. Starting in August, I’ll begin teaching a seminar and studio at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem.

MoMA names Sean Anderson associate curator of the Department of Architecture and Design

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has selected Sean Anderson as its new associate curator in the department of architecture and design. Anderson will work alongside fellow department employees to create collections, exhibitions, and public programs that focus on contemporary architecture. Anderson will also assist in managing MoMA's Issues in Contemporary Architecture exhibition series and the Young Architects Program, as well as serve as the main contact for both local and global architecture communities. He holds degrees in architectural design and the history of architecture and urban development from Cornell University, a master’s degree in architectural design from Princeton University, and a PhD in art history from the University of California, Los Angeles. Anderson most recently served as the senior lecturer of design and history and undergraduate program director at the University of Sydney in Australia, and he has worked as an architect in Afghanistan, India, Morocco, Sri Lanka, and the United States. "As both an architect and an academic, Sean brings a unique and global perspective to contemporary architecture. He has the capacity to balance the experience of practicing architecture with an intellectually rigorous inquiry into the field, framing contemporary issues in a fascinating and engaging way. We are excited to have him expand our curatorial understanding of contemporary architecture," Martino Stierli, Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, said in a statement. Anderson’s appointment will be effective on November 30, 2015.

Eavesdrop> Stiffed! The Lisbon Architecture Triennale tells its curators they won’t be paid

The life of an independent architecture curator is always tenuous at best. They develop a concept for an exhibit then pitch it to multiple venues in academia and museums and spend three to four years realizing the project. The financial rewards for such projects are minimal, but usually cover the curator’s costs and allow them a modicum of profit. If the curator is good at doing all it takes to realize their projects—corralling architects to finish installations, creating catalogues, communicating with the media, etc.—they will often be asked to organize and curate a biennale or triennale. Such publically financed exhibitions are extravaganzas of architecture (or they attempt to be) and all of them try to compete with the influence of the Venice Biennale—the first and still the most important of the international architecture surveys. These celebrations are a big prize for the mostly young and aspiring curators who walk the globe, and a rare chance to actually get paid for their work. But the most recent Lisbon Architecture Triennale—Close, Closer—which was curated by Beatrice Galilee, José Esparza, Mariana Pestana, and Liam Young—was a successful attempt to introduce an entire new generation of architects to an international audience. Despite its success, the organization that put the exhibit together has told its curators and designers (some of whom invested their own money in the project) that they will not be receiving their contracted fees. The final dispute ended this month, after a year and half of negotiations. It is true that the Portuguese economy is suffering from the fallout of the Euro collapse, but to decide to cut the fee for a contract two years after the event is unethical and poor behavior, even in the world of architectural exhibitions.

Obit> Mildred “Mickey” Friedman, 1929–2014

Mildred Friedman, the longtime design curator of Minneapolis' Walker Art Center and a prolific architectural author, died Wednesday at her home in New York City. She was 85. Friedman, whose friends called her “Mickey,” ran the Walker for 21 years with her husband, Martin, who was its director. Together they made it “America's leading design museum,” according to a tribute from Architectural Record on the occasion of the couple's “retirement” in 1990.

As the museum's design curator, Ms. Friedman also edited its publication, Design Quarterly, which she managed deftly, according to Andrew Blauvelt, the Walker’s senior curator of design, research, and publishing. "With its singular focus, generous reproductions, and smart design, it was decidedly not one of those dry and often poorly designed, peer-reviewed, academic journals,” wrote Blauvelt in a remembrance. “Although it’s been more than 20 years since DQ ceased publication, the void that it left has never been filled.”

Much of her work curating and editing Design Quarterly would spin off into publications. Friedman wrote or co-wrote dozens of books, including Graphic Design in America: A Visual Language History, the first large-scale museum survey of the field.

Since 1990, she and her husband had lived in New York City, where Ms. Friedman continued writing and curating at institutions including the Guggenheim Museum, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the Brooklyn Museum.

Under Friedman, shows at the Walker were not just shows but immersive experiences.

“In Mickey’s hands, a design show was never simply about a subject, but drew upon the principles and power of design itself to create a compelling experience,” wrote Blauvelt. “ This particular strategy of restaging, wherein visitors can not only look at works of art on view but also experience them directly and even viscerally, certainly drew upon Mickey’s skills and experience in interior design but also signaled a powerful new curatorial technique.”

In the Twin Cities design community, her influence was profound. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune quoted Dan Avchen, chief executive of HGA Architects and Engineers:

Mickey was instrumental in defining the architectural landscape of the Twin Cities by connecting patrons to architects … She was the design maven of the Twin Cities for many years and she had a huge impact— huge.

Friedman's legacy is inextricably linked to those of many 20th century architects. Her 1986 exhibition of Frank Gehry's work bolstered the architect's career—a feat she replicated by championing the likes of Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, Tod Williams, Billie Tsien and César Pelli, whom she also helped win commissions in the region by suggesting them for local landmark projects.

Born Mildred Shenberg in 1929, Ms. Friedman grew up in California. She met Martin Friedman at UCLA, where her future husband was teaching drawing as a graduate student in art history and painting. They married in 1949.

In 1980 she started the Mildred S. Friedman Design Fellowship, a program to give recent design graduates experience in her design studio at the Walker Art Center.

Her survivors include her husband, three daughters, and six grandchildren.

BREAKING: Martino Stierli tapped as MoMA’s Chief Curator of Architecture and Design

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has announced that Martino Stierli has been appointed as the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design. Mr. Stierli is currently a professor at the University of Zurich where he teaches the history of modern architecture. Previously, he has organized or co-curated exhibitions at prestigious venues around the world, taught at multiple Swiss universities, and published multiple essays on various topics relating to design. He steps into his new role in March, 2015. “[Stierli] brings an international perspective and possesses an extraordinary ability to brilliantly relate architecture and its image to its cultural context,” MoMA’s director Glenn D. Lowry said in a statement. “With his solid grounding in the history of modern architecture and art, coupled with a keen interest in contemporary practice, Martino will be an effective and energetic leader.” Stierli lavished praise on MoMA and expressed excitement about his upcoming post. “By continually expanding its comprehensive collection, the Department of Architecture and Design has been pivotal to the preservation of modernism for the future, and to making that heritage accessible to scholars and the broader public alike,” he said in a statement released by the museum. “I am excited to continue this tradition at MoMA and look forward to working with the Museum’s extraordinary team to contribute to shaping the current discourse on architecture and the city—locally, nationally, and globally.” Barry Bergdoll, who was the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design from 2007 to 2013, told AN, "I look forward greatly to Martino Stierli's leadership at MoMA Architecture and Design. Stierli is a creative, innovative, and astute historian and critic of modern and contemporary architecture, especially in its intersections with other artistic practices, notably photography and film. I am sure he will work with the collection, and grow it, in interesting ways, as well as develop timely and meaningful exhibitions, publications, and events. He brings a fresh vision to New York and to MoMA."

Christopher Mount to Open Architecture and Design Gallery in Los Angeles

Having observed the absence of architecture and design materials from the American art collection scene, curator and scholar Christopher W. Mount decided to fill the gap himself. His eponymous Los Angeles gallery, housed in the Pacific Design Center, opens to the public on Friday, May 23 with A Modern Master: Photographs by Balthazar Korab. A second gallery, open by appointment, will be located on the Upper West Side in New York. “I really thought that this was the time,” said Mount. “I thought, ‘Here is a subject matter that major museums collect, and there hasn’t been somebody who opened a gallery.’” A former curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA, Mount more recently had a bumpy ride as guest curator of A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California, part of the Getty Research Institute’s Pacific Standard Time series. He describes his new gallery as “a labor of love” and a natural extension of his museum work. “When people talk about what is it you really like to do, the answer [for me] is to find works, put them on the wall...and educate people on architecture and design. Get people to appreciate it as something that is equal in aesthetic pleasure and beauty to regular fine art,” said Mount. The works his gallery will display—including photography, drawings, and, possibly, architecture models—“is often towards another end, but is often beautiful in and of itself.” As for choosing LA as his headquarters, “I think part of the reason to be based in Los Angeles is...[that] the architecture profession is much less strictly commercial,” said Mount. “Certainly these people are wildly successful, but they tend to be more experimental.” At the same time, his work on A New Sculpturalism left Mount with a sense of how disconnected the New York architecture world is from what is happening in Los Angeles. “The idea is to promote this work, promote the designers and the architects, and hopefully we’ll promote it throughout the world,” he said. After the Korab show, which closes August 29, the Christopher W. Mount Gallery will exhibit photographs by architectural photographer Benny Chan. Mount also plans a show featuring drawings by prominent mid-century car designers, timed to coincide with the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.

Beatrice Galilee Appointed Architecture Curator at the Metropolitan Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced the appointment of Beatrice Galilee, 31, as associate curator of architecture and design. She will work within the department of Modern and Contemporary Art. According to a job posting in The Art Newspaper, the curator will develop collection and research strategies for the department as well as organize collection and special exhibitions, among other duties. Galilee is a writer and curator, most recently of the Lisbon Design Triennial in 2013, called Close, Closer. She was co-curator of the Gwangju design biennale in 2011 and 2009 Shenzhen Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. She was previously the architecture editor of Icon magazine, and holds a MSc in the History of Architecture from the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London. Galilee will have a wonderful piece of architecture to work in. The Met is taking over the Marcel Breuer–designed Whitney Museum building uptown to show works from the Modern and Contemporary Art department. “Beatrice Galilee will join the staff of our Department of Modern and Contemporary Art as it expands to embrace a more global program and mandate,” stated Thomas P. Campbell, the Met's director, in a statement. “She brings to the position her strong international experience in the presentation and study of architecture and design-related work. Hers is one of two positions in the department that were endowed recently by Dan and Estrellita Brodsky. Their commitment to modern and contemporary art at the Met has been visionary, anticipating the new opportunities for programming in the Marcel Breuer-designed building on Madison Avenue that will be vacated by the Whitney Museum in 2015 and then occupied by the Met.”

Zoë Ryan to Curate 2014 Istanbul Design Biennial

Zoe_Ryan_01 Zoë Ryan, curator of architecture and design at the Art Institute of Chicago, has been selected to curate the second Istanbul Design Biennial, taking place from October 18 through December 14, 2014. Read AN's report from the previous Istanbul Design Biennial here. Ryan has been working to expand the Art Institute's architecture and design holdings and teaches at the School of the Art Institute and at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Previously, she worked at New York's Van Alen Institute and the Museum of Modern Art. (Photo: Courtesy Art Institute of Chicago)

Q+A> Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, SFMOMA Architecture & Design Curator

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher was recently named the head of the department of architecture and design at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), filling a position vacated by Henry Urbach more than two years ago. Fletcher just completed a assessment of the museum’s architecture and design collection, and, most recently, she co-curated the exhibition Lebbeus Woods, Architect. She sat down with AN editors Nicole Anderson and Alan G. Brake to discuss her plans for the department. The Architect’s Newspaper: What direction do you plan to take the architecture and design department? Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher: The collection just turned 25 and so I think it was important that my colleague Joseph Becker and I, along with Henry Urbach, really undertook a collection analysis and are trying to draw on the identity and strengths of the collection: the experimental and conceptual architecture, the iconic chairs that capture every 20th century design movement, and then the Bay Area collection. We’ll definitely continue with focusing in those areas, and in this interim period, spend some time drilling down on some connections between the two like Bay Area experimental architecture like Ant Farm and some of the architects coming out of California. Thanks to Aaron Betsky we happen to have some great early drawings by Morphosis and Thom Mayne, and Neil Denari and want to revisit those moments. We’ve definitely been in dialogue with those guys. Also through this Lebbeus Woods show, kind of looking back at that moment around the founding of the Storefront for Art and Architecture. That seems a little under collected and something that because of the architecture department coming around in the late 80s, it is what Aaron and a lot of people were very interested in. We want to explore product design, but produce design where it merges with technology because of our obviously being embedded right there in the Bay Area. And it is infiltrating every field. You see it even in the graphic design and the architecture, with responsive buildings. I think just what we want to do with product design is not just collect it, but probably take the time working with our conservation department and interpretation department to figure out how to not just maintain it and upgrade it, but how to display it. Because all of a sudden, the moment of just displaying the hardware, the iPhone just as hardware, has passed. Any specific ideas about how you will display the product design? We haven’t landed on any clear avenue to take yet because we also recognize within product design there is the extra challenge of how to deal with a commercial product. Film or these kinds of media that we’re used to, marketing departments already use. And it is very expensive to invest in yet another film. Maybe in 20 years from now, the marketing itself will be kind of interesting. It is a challenging question given the rate that technology is developing and changing. How do you evaluate what is going be influential? It seems that we as even as museum professionals and media are so quick to identify something that could potentially be a game changer. I feel like at the museum we really need to take the time to say why is this culturally relevant? And interpret it in that context. There is also a side of me that says the museum—this holder of objects—and maybe we’re already moving towards no objects. Maybe we should not even be trying to go in that direction. If we are beholden to our 5000 objects that we already have—we may land on this might not be appropriate for us to pursue because we have this building and this collection and it would be abandoning this past. I don’t know, but this is what is exciting to me—what lies ahead. And in the meantime while the building the expansion is being completed, are you working on any with other cultural organizations collaborations outside of the museum? We are part of this project in Los Altos in the middle of Silicon Valley. It is the neighbor city to Palo Alto. It is also one of the wealthiest cities, wealthier than Beverly Hills. Downtown has State and Main Streets—so it’s a classic American city and there are a number of empty storefronts, so the city invited the museum to occupy temporarily these storefronts in order to show some works of art that dealt with the context of Silicon Valley. I am already working with Mike Mills, the filmmaker and graphic designer. He has done a couple of videos and films on suburbia and identity. He has proposed a piece that deals with the past but starting in 1976, the moment when the first Apple computer was built in a garage there in Los Altos, to the present and then the future. He has proposed interviewing children of employees of some of the tech companies and asking them about the future—what would you design for the future? It is a little revisiting Buckminster Fuller when he invited children to ask him about the world and the future. Is there anything you’re particularly excited about in terms of using the new building? We have a set architecture and design gallery which we have always had in the existing building, but also we will have more opportunities to use the larger temporary exhibition space on the 4th floor to do larger exhibitions that would travel. And be more collegial with peer institutions. Really get the SFMOMA collection in conversation with other collections and share the scholarship. Also at the same time, accept exhibitions. We have affinities with the FRAC and the Pompidou with the experimental architecture and our interest in product design relates to MoMA. Look at LACMA and their California emphasis and our Northern California emphasis. I am not really ready to talk about this other proposal we have in the city—because we really want to do something that is not in the gallery at all but in the city. In your analysis of the collection, were there any happy discoveries that you weren’t aware of or things that struck you in a new way? I think looking at the kind of beginning why every curator has continued this strand of conceptual architecture and where Paolo Polledri was the first A&D curator—really looking locally and inviting architects to address the Bay area. Aaron Betsky was sort of voraciously looking outside the Bay area and seeing this moment in Los Angeles and in New York happen. So looking at that strand of where I think Paolo called it visionary and Aaron was calling it conceptual and Joe Rosa was calling it un-built works. Can you comment on at all where you see the architecture scene in the Bay Area today? There seems to be a lot of built work happening. There is a lot of built work happening. There is a lot of repurposing happening. We are going to be right next to the new Yelp headquarters, which is in the Timothy Pflueger building from 1927. Particularly in the Bay Area because a lot of the practitioners have access to tech companies and robotics that responsive architecture is emerging here—which we are so well positioned to look at with our interest in technology—architecture that is not just fabricated in a new method but responds to occupancy and climate. And also recognizing that these were early hopes from architects of the 1960s. This kind of Ant Farm movement, but ok now we know what technology can do. Is there anything else you would like to comment on? I don’t want to ignore our iconic chair collection. Along with our look at how to display product design. I think we’re also thinking will this trickle down into the pre-software products. We have all recognized that when you put a chair on display in a museum, you’re taking away its function. But maybe what we learn from how to display software maybe that would inform how we might display a chair.

AIC Adds Architecture Curator

Another sign of the growing importance of the Art Institute of Chicago's Architecture and Design Department, the museum announced the appointment Alison Fisher as assistant curator. Fisher, who will focus on the department's historical collection, joins department chair Joe Rosa, and curator Zoe Ryan, who has been building the department's contemporary design collection. The department, which now boasts the country's largest architecture and design galleries, is working on a major exhibition on Bertrand Goldberg, among other shows. Fisher previously served as a curatorial fellow at the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University and she is completing a doctorate in art history at Northwestern.