The New York Times looks at the important changes taking place in MoMA’s permanent collection under the new chief curator of paintings and sculpture, Ann Temkin:
In the year and two months since she succeeded John Elderfield in the job, Ms. Temkin, 49, has been working to break with the past herself — most surprisingly, perhaps, in her approach to the so-called permanent collection. […]
But under Ms. Temkin, the permanent collection display is quickly becoming less permanent. Galleries that once changed only when works were loaned out are now subject to frequent renewal. For the first time, media other than painting and sculpture appear frequently throughout the Barr galleries. Artists who never quite made it into official “schools” are getting more play, and schools that the museum once passed up are getting pride of place.
Even small changes, like swapping out a single well-known artist for another, can make for major shifts in the museum’s familiar and stately narrative of modernism’s progress. The fourth floor, covering the early 1940s to the early 1970s, used to begin with Jackson Pollock’s “Stenographic Figure” (1942). Now Louise Bourgeois’s sculpture “Quarantania I” (1947-53) sets the tone for the entire era.
“At first I was shocked, and then I was impressed,” said Pepe Karmel, the chairman of the art history department at New York University, who spent three years as an adjunct curator in the Modern’s painting and sculpture department in the 1990s. In addition to the obviously different message conveyed by introducing such historic galleries with work by a still-living woman, Ms. Bourgeois’s rounded stalagmites, Mr. Karmel said, “fit in perfectly with the works by Rothko, Masson and Gorky — all pictures of this biomorphic moment.”
At MoMA, ‘Permanent’ Learns to Be Flexible (New York Times)