Sunday, July 08, 2012

Real to Real Commercial: Photographs from the Trevor Traina Collection

"So you mean I can't take photos of Trevor's photos?" I asked a de Young museum security guard, and the man got the giggles before saying, "No, I'm afraid there is no photography allowed in these four rooms, sir."

Upstairs from the Gaultier show at the de Young museum, there is a new photography installation this summer, complete with catalogue, of 110 photo prints from the collection of Trevor Traina, who just happens to be the son of Fine Arts Museums Board President Dede Wilsey.

There are ethical lines that most art museums try not to cross, including featuring shows of individual living collectors, because they can then turn around and resell the work at values inflated by their "exhibited at so-and-so museum" imprimatur. However, this is San Francisco, where ex-mayor Willie Brown, Jr. is still running a pay-for-play racket out of his legal "consulting" business while lecturing the populace in his San Francisco Chronicle column this morning, "If you're into instant gratification, go find a hooker." Both Willie and Dede treat San Francisco as if it was their own personal Sim City, and there's nothing wrong with that except they are usually doing so with millions of dollars in public funds.

The photography collection is fine, with a mixture of blue-chip vintage photographers like Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander to newer pieces like the huge Andreas Gursky prints which would look great if you had mansion walls to hang them on. The four rooms are loosely thematic, with names such as "Excess" and "Losses," and there is plenty of absurd ArtSpeak on the wall text next to the photos explaining serious concepts for you, but it might have been more instructive to simply have the dollar amount paid for each print, its approximate worth at the present moment, and what the "art advisors" think it will be worth in twenty years. (Click here for an hour-plus symposium called Playing The Field: Photography and Collecting Today featuring Traina's art advisor, Kevin Moore.)

The arty photos in this post, by the way, are from Three Gems, the earth installation by James Turrell in the de Young sculpture garden, where we repaired for a bit of meditation after all the crass commercialism.


AphotoAday said...

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it is probably a lot more rewarding for the soul in the making of photographs than it is in simply collecting them.

Civic Center said...

Dear Donald: That's a mighty long limb to be going out on, but I'd be happy to join you on it.

Nancy Ewart said...

The catalog given to the press also had huge "copyright" slathered over each page. Guess they want to make sure that nobody sees the goods. To be fair, most of the mainstream press, including Sura Wood at the BAR, pointed out how this show crossed an ethical line. I got a very nice e-mail from a former employee of the museum, thanking me for my column as well. Sad to see what's happening there.

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