Corcoran and National Gallery of Art collaboration starts early with LeWitt drawing
Just weeks after their planned merger is announced, Washington institutions already working together
By Julia Halperin. Web only
Published online: 24 February 2014
Last week, the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC, one of the country’s oldest private museums that has struggled with financial problems for years, announced plans to merge with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. However, a collaboration between the two arts institutions could happen even sooner, when ten students from the school help install Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #65, 1971, in the atrium of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, on loan from the National Gallery for more than one year.
From 3 to 14 March, visitors can watch as the students draw colourful lines that, per LeWitt’s instructions, are “not short, not straight, crossing and touching, drawn at random using four colours, uniformly dispersed with maximum density, covering the entire surface of the wall”. The work serves as a teaser for the Corcoran’s exhibition “From Experiment to Experience: Modern and Contemporary Art from The National Gallery of Art” (15 November-15 March 2015), which includes highlights from the nearby museum’s collection while part of its building is closed for renovation.
The students have some homework to do before they get started. “Some people say, ‘I read the instructions and I just did it.’ That’s like saying, ‘I read how to play the piano and I just did it,’” says John Hogan, the installation director at LeWitt’s studio. In LeWitt’s nomenclature, “there is a difference between a wavy line and a not straight line and a scribbled line,” Hogan says. A draughtsman from the studio will be on hand at the Corcoran to help students interpret the artist’s sometimes-opaque instructions.
When he was alive, LeWitt, a pioneer of conceptual art, often thanked students for executing his drawings by giving them a small work on paper. Although the Corcoran’s volunteers will not receive such a gift (or be paid for their time), they will be credited on the wall label alongside LeWitt.
“This is an opportunity to actually assist with, not just observe, the execution of a piece by a major 20th-century figure,” says the Corcoran’s curator Lauren Dickens. “Working with a professional studio like this is the best kind of experience a young artist could be offered.”
The end of Washington’s oldest art museum
Meanwhile, the deal brokered between the Corcoran, the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University would split up the struggling art institution, which has faced ongoing financial problems and needs urgent repairs to its Beaux-Arts home. George Washington University will take over operations of the art and design college and ownership of the historic building, while the National Gallery would absorb the Corcoran’s collection and organise exhibitions at the school’s gallery.
The National Gallery of Art said, however, that it may not permanently acquire all of the Corcoran’s 17,000 works of art, based on the collection of the museum’s 19th-century founder, William Wilson Corcoran, and which includes paintings by Eugène Delacroix, Edgar Degas, Thomas Gainsborough, Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent. Any unaccessioned works would be distributed to other museums around the country.
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