Director’s Desk: Participatory Art and New Acquisitions

Curator at Large Klaus Ottmann engages with Roter Gesang (Red Song) by Franz Erhard Walther. Photo: Dorothy Kosinski

Curator at Large Klaus Ottmann demonstrates the participatory qualities of a Franz Erhard Walther sculpture, Roter Gesang (Red Song), at an Arts Committee meeting this week. Walther (born in Fulda, Germany in 1939) produces minimalist sculptures, often in brilliant primary colors, out of ordinary heavy canvas, that seem like soft versions of minimalist compositions. This will look brilliant near our Rothko Room.  It also harmonizes with another new acquisition, Wolfgang Laib’s wax room, in which the visitor enters to appreciate the beautiful aroma, the rich surface, and the embracing small space. Our acquisitions meeting was a heady affair with the approval of many new works from photographs by Eugène Atget, to a painting by Al Held, a painting by Walter Dahn,  and works by Helen Torr, to mention only a few.

Director’s Desk: Dispatch from Berlin

While in Berlin to meet with an important collector, I had some time to explore in the city. Klein aber fein is how the Germans might describe this wonderful one-room exhibition (pictured below) of five massive lithographs shown at Buchmann Galerie, all by Richard Serra and done in Paris around 1990. The prints have such incredibly rich texture. It is hard to imagine the enormous litho stones he must have used to make these prints. This exquisite one-room show makes me reflect on the power of our intimate projects at the Phillips, of course.

Photos: Dorothy Kosinksi

Photos: Dorothy Kosinski

I visited galleries on Auguststrasse and discovered this elegant, sober, brick building from ca. 1930, designed by the Jewish architect Alexander Beer, an example of Neue Sachlichkeit architecture. It was built as a Jewish girls’ school. Beer died in 1944 at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1944. During the last several years the building was restituted to the Jewish community and is filled with art spaces and a lively cafe…like the neighboring structures in this former East Berlin area that is being totally revitalized.

Director’s Desk: Unveiling Expression

WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists singers perform "La donna e mobile" from Verdi's Rigoletto. Photo: Chris Flynn/ National  Endowment for the Humanities

WNO Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists singers perform “La donna e mobile” from Verdi’s Rigoletto. Photo: Chris Flynn/ National Endowment for the Humanities

This past Wednesday I had the privilege of attending a special program at the Italian Embassy called “Verdi: Uncensored”. It featured a presentation by renowned musicologist, University of Chicago Professor Emeritus, Philip Gossett and performances by several Domingo-Cafritz Young Artists. The program was introduced by Kenneth Feinberg (best known as the administrator of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund), former President of the Washington National Opera (and owner of over 9,000 opera recordings!). The program revealed many original scores that  scholars have unearthed, showing how intrusive church, court, and police censors had been over decades, sometimes totally distorting meaning and logic in the operas. Bravo to the National Endowment for the Humanities for supporting this scholarship for some thirty years! I learned a lot about Verdi and I had reason to reflect on the importance of free expression and the insidious impact of censorship on artistic expression.