Dallas launches international programme
The museum is offering its expertise in exchange for the loan of works of cultural heritage
By Javier Pes. Museums, Issue 236, June 2012
Published online: 07 June 2012
The Dallas Museum of Art aims to establish international partnerships with institutions in countries including India, Brazil, China, African nations and Russia as soon as the impasse over religious manuscripts in Russia claimed by a Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn is overcome (The Art Newspaper, April, p5). The museum is offering its expertise in conservation, exhibitions, education, web development and new media. In exchange, the Dallas museum wants to borrow “significant” works of cultural heritage. “The problems of illegal excavation and the illicit import of cultural property require new models of co-operation and exchange between institutions,” says the museum’s proposal, which it has branded the DMX programme.
“It is a model that doesn’t involve bricks and mortar overseas,” says Maxwell Anderson, the director of the Dallas museum. He is also thinking beyond large-scale loan exhibitions, or as he says, “viewing the world through eleven-week, 100-object loans”. Dallas’s international programme will be different from the Centre Pompidou’s exhibition-based model, revealed by The Art Newspaper last month (May, p1) and the Guggenheim museum’s UBS-sponsored global research and exhibition initiative. “One-off loans can also help build bridges,” Anderson says. The Dallas model is about increasing the circulation of art around the world, “not monetising art loans, which has been hugely negative”, he says, a reference to the trend for museums, typically in Europe, to charge hefty loan fees.
Why Dallas and why now? Anderson, who joined the museum as director in January, says that the city is a world centre for exchange that is still best known for “pop culture, sport and oil”. But the city has in the past decade invested in culture as much as sport, he says, referring to its arts district, which features a Norman Foster-designed opera house, a Rem Koolhaas-designed theatre, and a $110m park spanning a freeway that is due to be completed this autumn. Culturally, Dallas has “kept its light under a bushel”, Anderson says. Business leaders recognise that we are trying to do something different and the mayor is “very excited for the museum to broaden its reach to a global one”.
Recent appointments to help make the international programme happen include Mark Leonard, the former head of painting conservation at the Getty. Gabriel Ritter, the new assistant curator of contemporary art, is completing a doctoral fellowship at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, while Sabiha Al Khemir, the New York-based, Tunisian-born founding director of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, will be working with the Dallas museum to build partnerships with institutions in Indonesia and the Philippines, using the museum’s Islamic art collection. And what of items in the museum that source countries might want back? Anderson says: “We’ve begun conversations with countries about objects in our collection,” and the museum’s website will soon provide greater transparency about them.
Closer to home, Anderson and the directors of five other Dallas-Fort Worth museums are in the early stages of planning a jointly funded conservation science laboratory. It would be shared by the Dallas Museum of Art, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Meadows Museum, the Kimbell Art Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. “Creating the lab along the lines of MoMA or the Getty’s would be a breakthrough in collaboration,” Anderson says. Meanwhile, the Dallas Museum of Art’s new painting conservation lab is due to open late next year, funded by grants from the Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and private donors.
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