sep/oct 2009


For those in the art world who can’t afford to collect, it’s easy to forget that collecting is often a passionate endeavor, which can be highly individualistic and even eclectic. That passionate eclecticism was displayed amply in “Herb & Dorothy,” the recent, wonderful documentary film about the Vogels, the legendary New York collecting couple who lived out their lives in a modest New York City apartment crammed with art. Living on frugal means (Herb was a postal worker by day) the Vogels began by hanging out with artists and buying scraps of conceptual and minimalist art; in time, they had amassed a world-class collection which they donated to the National Gallery in Washington.

Closer to home, one of the leading modern art collectors of the last half century purposely made his own exclusively eclectic collection open to the public, a commitment which has been reaffirmed by his widow since his death. The Frederick R. Weisman Art Foundation Collection is voracious in scope, running the gamut from European modernists like Picasso and Magritte to American pioneers like de Kooning, Warhol, Segal, and Stella to hyperrealists like Duane Hanson, with a healthy mix of contemporary artists thrown in for good measure. Their works remain accessible to the public by appointment at the Weisman home in the Holmby Hills, which (though no Vogel warren) remains an extraordinary modernist hodgepodge, and exquisite proof that there is no single way to display art or contextualize it. In this issue, we visit the Wesiman house and talk to Billie Milam Weisman about the Weismans’ vision for their collection.

We also talk to curator Michael Darling, who during his three years tenure to date at the Seattle Art Museum has made an emphatic mark on the display of modern and contemporary art in the Northwest and expanded that institution’s viewing space and support infrastructure, as well as its permanent collection.

Certain genres of art defy collecting in the ordinary sense, however “land art” as a movement has been undergoing an evolution of sorts in recent years, as a new generation of artists engage the earth from a more process-oriented, performative or ephemeral approach. This summer and fall, New Mexico has played host to a vast assembly of solo exhibitions, museum shows, lectures and symposia addressing various aspects of the LAND/ART phenomenon.

Also in this issue we aim a spotlight at San Francisco, with its sprawling gallery scene and imposing legacy of artists, in a special supplement. It’s hard at times for the area’s galleries to compete with their gilded frame: a city whose urban landscape is itself as much an artwork as any in the Western Hemisphere. But the San Francisco art scene has ridden out the recent tectonic economic shifts in stride, with a panoply of cultural venues that keeps getting richer and larger: from the new Contemporary Jewish Museum facing Yerba Buena Center to the new rooftop garden galleries at SFMOMA. To the serious collector, or just the collector of visual experiences, San Francisco remains a top cultural destination: LA’s older, prettier (if less trendy) sister.

Finally, to herald the autumn, we augment this collection of articles with a Fall Preview of notable gallery shows from Los Angeles and across the west. Enjoy.