Saturday, February 09, 2013

Don't Be Shy, Don't Hold Back at SFMOMA

A huge, site-specific fabrication of hair, glue and rope has appeared in SFMOMA's atrium, spelling out nonsense in languages that look real but are in fact invented.

united nations--babel of the millenium was created in 1999 for the museum by Shanghai-born, New York-based artist Wenda Gu in 1999 and paid for by Vicki and Kent Logan, who are being feted on the second floor with a highlights exhibition taken from their massive donation of 330 contemporary artworks to SFMOMA fifteen years ago.

Kent Logan was a New York investment banker with Goldman Sachs, Paine Webber, and Barclays before arriving in San Francisco with his wife Vicki in 1992 as one of the seven partners of Montgomery Securities, one of the major funders of the 1990s Silicon Valley dotcom gold rush. He must have amassed quite a bit of that gold himself because he retired in 2000 in his 50s and moved to Vail, Colorado, where he became a town councilman in 2003.

The Logans built a modernist chateau in Vail adjoined by a 7,500 square foot private museum to exhibit their growing art collection (click here for a 2007 New York Times article about the artworld trend, Museum for My Stuff.) In 2006, they made a fractional gift upon their deaths to the Denver Art Museum, who will be inheriting the childless couple's Vail home, gallery and about $90 million in art and cash for its maintenance. In 2005, the couple bought vacation property at a gated Scottsdale community where they have been scandalizing the neighbors with their modernist golf course home filled with aggressively confrontational modern art (click here for a 2011 Wall Street Journal article with photos).

Though I don't particularly share the Logans' taste in art, at least it is their own taste rather than the product of an army of consultants. In an interview with Kyle McMillan, Kent notes,
"We've had advisers suggest that we look at this, buy that, but we've really ignored them for the most part. So, we've always said that we have to like the work because we're going to live with it, and we don't want to buy something that someone said we should have and then find out we don't like it. You can tell the difference. If I walk into a collector's home, I can tell immediately if there has been an adviser or a consultant at work, because it looks like one from Column A and one from Column B – a trophy type of collection."

I thought the metallic figures above were the latest Oversized Shiny Things from Jeff Koons, but they turned out to be aluminum figures by German artist Thomas Schutte from 1998 called Grosse Geisters (Great Spirits).

The requisite Jeff Koons piece was the goofy 1991 marble sculpture Self Portrait above left, surrounded by pop art samples from Warhol, Ruscha and Gilbert & George.

Though they have moved on to contemporary Japanese and Chinese art, the Logans also collected a lot of young Brits, such as Jenny Saville, whose 1999 painting Hem above is looming over an amused Patrick Vaz.

There is also the requisite Damien Hirst formaldehyde and dead animal sculpture on the floor, something I had only experienced through photos. In the flesh, so to speak, the effect is disturbing and disrespectful. I wanted to steal the piece away and give the creature a decent burial or incineration.


Nancy Ewart said...

Nice review. I rather like Jenny Saville; she's an original, painting those acres of rotund female flesh.

As for Damien Hirst-BLECH! Years ago I saw his cow in formaidehyde and although I'd worked the ER at SFGH, felt like throwing up.

affinity said...

I love Hem of course. A little overwhelming, but I would assume that is the point. But I adore "nonsense in languages". Text is always a draw for me in art, I guess because I am a word person, and I did not know I would find nonsense words even more appealing.

A delight as always, thank you.

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