One Collection to Another: Exploring The Kreeger Museum

Compilation of images from paintings and sculpture from the Kreeger Museum's collection

Sculptures, paintings, architecture, and members of the Phillips’s communications staff at The Kreeger Museum. Photos: Amy Wike

To take advantage of the dwindling sunny days and for a little inspiration, the Phillips communications and marketing department recently took a field trip to the nearby Kreeger Museum. It was a treat to see some of the stars from our own collection—Braque, BonnardMonet, and Picasso, to name a few—in a new light, and I could spend days in the Dan Steinhilber: Marlin Underground exhibition (on view through Dec. 29, 2012). The image at lower left in the collage above is just a corner of the gargantuan inflatable sculpture Steinhilber has created for visitors to run around in.

Of particular note was this incredible watercolor by Piet Mondrian. After a lifetime of associating the name “Mondrian” with flat, grid paintings in primary colors, I had to do a triple-take of the artist name.

Located on Foxhall Road, the Kreeger is just down the street from the house Duncan and Marjorie Phillips built in 1929, affectionately named “Dunmarlin” after Duncan (father), Marjorie (mother), and Laughlin (son). The building no longer stands, but it housed the family after their residence at 21st and Q Streets was fully converted to a museum.

Amy Wike, Publicity and Marketing Coordinator

Controlled Chaos

An interview between Meg Clark, program coordinator at the Phillips’s Center for the Study of Modern Art, and Klaus Ottmann, director of the Center and Phillips curator at large, on his installation in the Main Gallery of works from the permanent collection

Main gallery, detailed installation view. Photo: Kate Boone

Main gallery, detailed installation view. Photo: Kate Boone

Meg Clark: Was this your first time curating an entire gallery space from the permanent collection for the museum? What made you choose the Main Gallery?

Klaus Ottmann: An entire gallery space, yes. I think this is a kind of departure for the museum, in an effort to create more diversity and curatorial voices as far as permanent collection installations are concerned. The reason it is in the Main Gallery is because it was the first space available; it needed to be reinstalled after the Snapshot show, and I was asked to do it. I also think the Main Gallery is a beautiful space, because it really is a very traditional art gallery space. It has no windows, beautiful light, and is elevated to a certain extent–the viewpoint upon entering the gallery from the house is so interesting.

Some of the works here have elements of chaos, and collapse – which is something I think art is very much about.

MC: Tell us about your curatorial process, generally speaking and for this particular installation. Do you ever approach a project with a theme in mind, and, if so, what did you have in mind for this space?

KO: I have what you might call a non-traditional curatorial practice. It is less art historical and more influenced or informed by my philosophical background. I consider my practice to be one of structuralism, which is a form of formalism–one that considers form as content. I tend to have an a-historical approach, something that is very suitable to this museum since we do not have separate departments for different time periods, different media, etc. Years ago in other museums it was almost impossible to mix things between media and between different periods in the way it is done here. More and more museums are doing that now, but the Phillips was doing this from the very beginning, never having restrictions. There is a great freedom in that.

I never come to an installation or an exhibition with a preconceived idea or theme. I let it evolve from the works themselves. I look at a number of works and see what appeals to me. I do know that for this space I wanted to have a mixture of painting, sculpture, and photography. I especially wanted to show works we have rarely exhibited. As I was browsing through our databases and seeing what we have, certain things came to mind. For instance I like the idea of chaos and works that evoke a sense of uncontrollable circumstances or feeling. Some of the works here have elements of chaos and collapse, which is something I think art is very much about. Continue reading “Controlled Chaos” »