Director aims to bring the world to Michigan
Broad Museum opens, putting international relations to the fore
By Helen Stoilas. Museums, Issue 240, November 2012
Published online: 08 November 2012
From the outset, the Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, East Lansing, which is due to open 10 November in an angular new building designed by Zaha Hadid, aimed to look beyond its campus. An international focus is something that fits with the university’s history of international outreach, says the museum’s director Michael Rush. “Since I’ve been here, it’s been reinforced in spades that Michigan State is a really global university,” he says. “It is doing fundamental things throughout the world like improving water supply in Malawi and land reform in the Philippines. I want us to be the cultural arm of that global mission the university has.”
The museum is doing its share of international co-operation by working with artist-run spaces and cultural venues in cities including Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, São Paulo, Istanbul and Dubai, and video screens will stream live feeds from those sites at the opening. For example, visitors in Michigan will be able to watch the Turkish-born artist Ahmet Ogüt work in his studio in Amsterdam.
Rush says this global outlook is especially important at a university like Michigan State, where 12% of new students are from China. The director hired Chunchen Wang, from the Museum of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, to serve as an adjunct curator at the Broad Art Museum—making him the first mainland Chinese curator to hold a job in a US museum, Rush says.
He was in the middle of putting together an international advisory board for the museum as we went to press. “We’re casting a very broad net,” he says, adding that all the board members will have some connection to Michigan.
Rush has also taken a world view when organising the opening exhibitions, with works commissioned from artists in China, Vietnam, Iran and Turkey. “Global Groove 1973/2012” takes a work by the late Korean video art pioneer Nam June Paik as the inspiration to examine trends in the medium. Future shows will look at contemporary art from Brazil next summer, followed by India and Pakistan.
The exhibition “In Search of Time”, meanwhile, is a chance to show works from Eli and Edythe Broad’s contemporary art collection, alongside works from the museum’s collection. There will be no galleries devoted to the permanent collection. The show will mix the old with the new, to “expand people’s understanding of the contemporary by showing links to the past”, Rush says. An installation by the Slovenian artist Marjetica Potrc based on a project she did in Soweto, Johannesburg, ten years ago will be surrounded by 18th-century African fetish objects.
The Broads gave the seed money for the $45m building, as well as a $300m endowment for acquisitions and another $2m for operations. Just before the opening, the collectors donated 19 contemporary works to the museum, including Roxy Paine’s steel branching sculpture, Containment 1, 2009, which will be installed in the institution’s sculpture garden. “What they’ve done is extraordinary,” says Rush, who stresses that the museum will be responsible for raising the rest of its annual costs. “We’re just in constant heavy fundraising mode.”
An important issue for Rush is how the museum will interact with the university’s departments. His goal is to have artists working throughout the institution. The artist, Sam Van Aken, who has created hybrid plants, is going to be working with the genetics department. Rush plans to continue the museum’s projects around the Lansing area. “As proud as we are of this great building, the museum is more than that. We want art to infiltrate the community as much as we can.”
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