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About The Blog

The Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis have joined together to create the Contemporary-Pulitzer blog which, for the first time, combines the perspectives of two separate institutions with differing missions within the same blog.


Offering alternating posts each day from the Pulitzer and Contemporary, the blog provides a candid look at the behind-the-scenes workings of both arts organizations.

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New Addition

Next week, the Pulitzer will be adding one to our ranks. Camran, a recent graduate of Washington University, will be starting a one-year program as a full-time research assistant for the Pulitzer. He’ll also be working quite a bit on educational outreach and initiatives with local universities.

We’re looking forward to him starting and have already started saying “Oh Camran will be able to help with this!” when we talk about various projects we’re working on. Lucky Camran! I’ll be persuading him to write blog posts in the near future (something all of our staff enjoys so much) and I’ll try to post an interview with him next week about his thoughts on starting a brand-new job.

We’re also losing one of the ranks–Amy’s internship ends this week and she’ll be moving on to new pastures. She’s been fantastic, has contributed (often) to this blog, and we’ll try to convince her to continue writing occasional posts now and then. She’ll be writing a post for Friday on her overall experience of working at the Pulitzer.

Joe Flashback

With our current exhibition’s focus on Joe and recent discussions about putting Pulitzer construction stories on our new website, I thought this would be a perfect time to feature a blog flashback. Last year, I wrote a 3 part series on the installation of Joe. Read Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.

After reading these posts, walk through Joe again, and see if knowing the installation story affects your visit in any way. For me, knowing that these massive steel plates were barged up the Mississippi River only adds to the amazement I have for that piece. We’re thinking about including this story and more on the re-vamped website. Let me know if there are stories you think should be included, questions you have, or back stories you want to hear.

Ads for Sale

Today has been a very advertising-centric day for me. I’m currently in the process of plotting out the ads for 2007, and I just read this article in the Boston Herald. The Boston MFA is starting to sell their massive exhibition banner advertisments (30 inches by 60 inches!) on their website. This isn’t a new idea, but I’m glad that institutions are making these banners available–I’ve always wondered what happens to them when the exhibition is through–and its good that they won’t go to waste and can still be enjoyed.

I think the article points out a good mentality to keep in mind while designing exhibition ads. Does this ad look good enough to make 5 feet tall? Is the image powerful enough to make people still care even when the exhibition is through?

Good ad design is always important, and this is especially true for an arts organization. The ads need to almost be a work of art in themselves, yet at the same time, not overshadow or distort the works of art they are featuring. The ads for our next exhibition do just this–they look fantastic and are definitely break the mold of what we normally do. I’m excited to share these with you once all the image rights are obtained…which actually is a process that merits a whole blog post unto itself. If there are ads that you think have particularly stood out, let me know, post a comment, send me a link–I’d love to see them.

Find out more

You’ve visited the Pulitzer and seen Sugimoto’s photographs. Would you like to meet the artist? Well, you’re in luck! Get to know Sugimoto a bit better by watching the video on the online catalogue.

The interview between Sugimoto and Deborah Martin Kao adds another fascinating layer of information to the overall experience of the exhibition, while also giving you a glimpse into the personality of the artist. One thing I think that comes across is his wry sense of humor. Here’s an example quote:

Deborah Martin Kao: How would the spectator’s experience of the Joe photographs change if they were installed in a different location?

Hiroshi Sugimoto: This is a once in a lifetime experience to have the sculpture seen next to my pictures. People come and are amazed at how different the photograph can be from the sculpture. This is a secret message from me: don’t trust photography (laughs).

Matthias just pointed out something else that happens — it’s really subtle so you have to look closely. Towards the end Sugimoto talks about the effects of light. Click on the clip called “Installing at the Pulitzer” and watch how the daylight in the Main Gallery gallery dramatically starts to change, as if on cue. Especially when he says “the passage of the clouds” the room suddenly changes from dark and cloudy to bright and sunny! Coincidence? Serendipity? Take a look and decide for yourself!

Research for Web

Here’s a post from Amy, who’s interning at the Pulitzer, and what she’s currently working on. (Rachel)

I am back to talk again about the upcoming installation, Portrait/Homage/Embodiment, which opens on November 3rd. I’ve been able to experience the process of organizing an exhibition over the past few months and seeing everyone here prepare for it has been quite a sight. I have watched as the staff has discussed the positioning of the artworks throughout the galleries, which pedestals to use, and various other aesthetic and pragmatic details that are presentation related. In addition, I’ve been able to work on some of the programming that will relate to this exhibition, namely student docent programs with surrounding universities. All of these aspects have shaped the work that has been surrounding me as I do my own preparation for the exhibition.

My work has involved a lot of research on the background of both the artists as well as the subject of their works, as I discussed here in a previous post. Now that most of the background information has been collected, my task is to organize it. The idea is to take this information and create an interactive experience with it on the website. The actual web design has not been decided yet, but it might be possible that by clicking on an image of the work in the galleries, it will take you to information on the subject and artist. The links will take the viewer to different points of information about the works to construct an idea of the whole work in the context of the exhibition. As far as Matthias and I have discussed so far, the site will have an exploratory feel that allows individuals to learn and understand at their own rate. The information available will be an excellent guide for visitors as well as docents and students, and it’ll be really interesting to see how it all comes together.

Joining the Crowd

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, the Pulitzer’s website is currently getting an “extreme makeover”. Not only do we hope it will convey our institution more accurately (as we’ve changed dramatically since we opened in 2001) and contain useful and interesting information, we also would like to join in a trend that has been sweeping the museum world for some time now. Podcasting.

Our neighbors the Contemporary have been successfully podcasting for some time now, and we are excited about the prospect of doing this here as well. Though the podcasts won’t guide visitors through our galleries, I think there’s quite a bit that goes on at the Pulitzer that could be podcast-worthy. Here are a few initial ideas:

– Podcasts of our collaborative chamber concerts with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
– Interviews with Symphony musicians about the program they are performing, or those involved in the program planning
– Interviews with visiting artists
– Clips from the academic symposia we host during each exhibition at the Pulitzer
– Information from our docents on the exhibition
– Opinions from visitors, students and staff about the exhibition
– Stories from the construction of the Pulitzer building
– Podcasts of lectures and public discussions held at the Pulitzer

These are just some preliminary ideas –the podcasts will be up and running with our new website mid-fall, so we have some time to brainstorm. Can you think of anything that you’d like to see (and eventually hear) to add to this list?

PFA in KC

Since each of our jobs here at the Pulitzer fill a pretty specific role, it’s interesting what we get excited about regarding our respective jobs. For example, I’ve witnessed my colleague Elise who is Assistant Registrar get mesmerized by cavity-packed crates. I also hear that our Registrar, Helene, enjoys going over installation schedules more than an average person might.

As Public Relations Coordinator, I get a kick out of press clippings. I get an extra thrill of excitement when there’s an article from out of town–as was the case a week ago in the Kansas City Star. Because I didn’t blog about this soon enough, you unfortunately have to access the article through the Star’s archives (however, as dedicated fans of the Pulitzer, I’m sure you will do this anyway), but here are some of the highlights from Elisabeth Kirsch’s review of Hiroshi Sugimoto: Photographs of “Joe”.

“The spareness and intensity of both the images and the installation create such a feeling of quietude and contemplation that a visit to this exhibition is akin to a religious experience…(Sugimoto) has photographed Joe from within the folds of the sculpture itself, looking up to the sky. (In essence he traps the viewer within.) He uses black and white photography, eliminating the vibrant color of the piece and its surroundings. The planes of the sculpture, seen from inside, resemble nothing more than black and gray shadows pushed to the edge of the picture plane. The light from above or within the scupture becomes the most “real” element of these abstract pictures.”

I think that getting a review like this is something we can all get pretty excited about!

Gallery Interventions

For today’s post, our Visitors Services Manager Tim weighs in some more on the idea of gentle intervention while protecting art in the galleries:

The recent New York Times article regarding Gallery Assistants at the Guggenheim has sparked some interesting discussion. Our own GAs are telling experiences they’ve had which seem to support the idea of the gentle interjection of information as a means to “divert disaster”.

I recalled an instance myself in which a woman, during the Brancusi and Serra in Dialogue exhibition, was unable to restrict her experiences to simply viewing the work and seemed determined to try and touch each object as she toured the galleries. While she never actually achieved contact, the attempt was made each time she confronted another work. After the third caution alarm had sounded, I approached her and began a conversation about how unfortunate it was that touching these objects had to be forbidden. She took the bait and we continued the conversation discussing the problems of showing extremely valuable and irreplaceable art in such intimate circumstances. Through the rest of the installation she never again got too close to an object, but made a point of stopping at the front desk on the way out to say what an incredible experience it had been, and that it, ironically, had “touched her deeply”.

Gallery Guides/Assistants

In Sunday’s New York Times, Ted Loos wrote an article about the Guggenheim’s approach to gallery assistants, or as they call them, gallery guides. I think one of the challenges of this job is to effectively guard the art without coming off like an angry bulldog or without making the visitors feel as though their every move is being scrutinized. I like the way the Guggenheim mixes art protection with art discussion–if a gallery guide needs to warn a visitor who is getting too close, they simutaneously will engage the visitor in discussion about the work, and thus turn a potentially negative situation around.

This reminded me a lot of the Pulitzer’s approach towards gallery assistants and their interaction with visitors. I emailed the article to Tim, our Visitors Services Manager who is also in charge of gallery assistant training, and asked what he thought. He replied with this:

“I’m really glad to see other major art institutions taking this approach to visitor experience. We began moving in this direction some time ago and I strongly feel this is the only approach that makes sense here. Oddly, when you forwarded this article to me, I was in the process of creating a set of procedural instructions for new gallery assistants. In fact, I had just described a scenario very like the 6 year old touching the Zaha Hadid piece, advising the same approach to diffuse the situation. While our program is not as complex as theirs, I think we’re on the right path. I find a reference such as this to be very reassuring”.

As the Guggenheim’s Educational Director Kim Kanatani stated, there is an emphasis on the experience being “visitor-centered rather than object-centered”, which I think is a great way to phrase it. The visitor’s experience should be a priority, and I think the Guggenheim’s approach to this provides an excellent model to further this practice here at the Pulitzer.

Trip to the Guggenheim

Following Rachel’s lead of sharing her experience of the Spiral Jetty, I decided to follow up by sharing my visit to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. After experiencing the building and its way of displaying art, there are some similarities as well as differences between the Guggenheim and the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts.

Often times when people visit the Pulitzer, they get lost and even miss the building because of the austere exterior; this was not the case upon locating the Guggenheim. There were street vendors and performers there to entertain the lines of people about to enter the building. After the short entertainment outside, we were let in to buy our tickets. The line was located at the base of Frank Lloyd Wright’s building. Looking up, the layers of the building looked kind of like a honeycomb. The photo ops in the space are endless, although the bottom level is the only space where photography is allowed.

Photograph

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We then made our way up the spiraling levels that slowly incline towards the galleries. There are a few works displayed along the way from the current exhibition of the architect Zaha Hadid. The display of the works seem difficult because of the uneven floors and curved wall space. It is almost as if Wright purposely gave the curators a hurdle when displaying the works, compared to the Pulitzer’s wall space with very geometric lines and large white walls. The side galleries at the Guggenheim offer some exhibition space, containing works from the collection as well as a small exhibition of Jackson Pollock’s works on paper. The spirals keep going up as the exhibition of Hadid continues along the way. After seeing drawings and models of her works, the display shows more of her design projects, such as a car and a futuristic kitchen.

The trip to the top of the building gave a view of the spirals we had just climbed. Unlike the Pulitzer, where one can wander through the galleries and explore without a specific destination, the Guggenheim’s space gives a path for the viewers to follow throughout the museum that ends with a view from the top of the building. As we tracked back in our steps down the spiral, we were able to view the works again coming from the opposite direction. The impact of Wright’s architecture on the works is very important to the experience of the Guggenheim, much like it is with Ando’s building here. Please feel free to comment if you have visited the Guggenheim or any other museum where the architecture creates a unique experience with art.

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Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts 3716 Washington Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63108
http://www.pulitzerarts.org
Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis 3750 Washington Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63108
http://www.contemporarystl.org
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