Friday, May 02, 2014

The office

As a rule curators keep their offices pretty much to themselves. We did get a classic photo of Justin Paton in his Christchurch Art Gallery office (you can see it here on OTNSTUDIO) but when we met up in Sydney we got waylaid by a new Picasso in the storeroom so we never got to see his new digs.  This interest in curator’s offices comes up as a result of an extraordinary story from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Its first contemporary art curator Barton Kestle (trained by MoMA’s legendary Alfred Barr) was caught up in the anti-Communist rage of Senator Eugene McCarthy.  Although Kestle was never formally accused, the stress of the investigations was clearly too much for him. One day Kestle walked out of the building, caught a train to Washington DC and was never seen again. Shortly after his disappearance Kestle’s office was boarded over to create a wall for a temporary exhibition and was forgotten. The hidden room was rediscovered in 2011 and the Institute decided to add it to its collection of period rooms. A perfectly preserved curatorial office from the 1950s has got to be a unique artifact. Too good to be true? It got us for a minute until we noticed a small label announcing the ‘office’ and the cover story were actually the creation of the American artist Mark Dion.

Image: Mark Dion, Office 2012-2013 collection Minneapolis Institute of Arts