the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
Ralph Arnold, Who You/Yeah Baby,
1968, Oil and collage on canvas, 30 1/8 x 24 1/4 in.
© Collection of DePaul University Art Museum, Art Acquisition Endowment Photograph by Tom van Eynde
Hans Breder, Homage to Chicago,
1968, Aluminum, 3 x 3 x 3 ½ in.
© Collection of the artist Photograph by Tom van Eynde
Study of a Soft Fireplug, Inverted,
1968, pencil, 26 ¾ x 22 in.
© Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of the American Contemporary Art Foundation, Inc., Leonard A. Lauder, President 2002.61
Ed Paschke, My Pal Trigger,
1968, Oil on linen, 28 x 24 in.
© Collection of Daniel Cohn, Photo courtesy of the Ed Paschke Foundation
James Rosenquist, See-Saw, Class Systems,
1968, Lithograph on cream wove paper, 24 1/8 x 34 in.
© Collection of the artist Photograph by Tom van Eynde
Don Baum, L.B.J.,
1968-69, Wood and glass box, head and torso of doll, decals, 10 . x 8 7.8 x 7 . in.
© Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, gift of Albert and Muriel Newman Photography Copyright Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Ray Johnson, Do Not Kill,
1966, Collage on illustration board, 18 x 15 1/8 in.
© The Estate of Ray Johnson at Richard L. Feigen & Company Photograph by Tom van Eynde
Louise Lincoln, Beard,
1968, wood and leather, 9. x 6 . x 7 3.8 in.
© Collection of Roy and Mary Cullen, courtesy of Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery Photograph by Tom van Eynde
Louise Lincoln is Director of the DePaul University Art Museum and an adjunct faculty member in DePaul's Department of the History of Art and Architecture. She holds degrees from Bryn Mawr College and the University of Delaware. An art historian with specializations in arts of Africa, Native North America, and the Pacific Islands, she previously served as a curator at the Minneapolis Institute of...[more]
Interview with the Director of the DePaul Art Museum
Chicago, Sep. 2008-- The DePaul Art Museum is situated in an interesting position: should an opportunity arise, it's flexible enough to host an exhibition like Daniel Heyman's "Abu Ghraib Detainee Interview Project" on short notice, but also organizes several exhibitions a year, one of which is always a Chicago artist. On view currently at the museum is "1968: Art and Politics in Chicago" an excellent exhibition that indicates the ambitious direction this museum is heading. Interested in learning more about the direction and future of the museum, I corresponded with Director Louise Lincoln about that subject and was able to ask some follow up questions while taking in "1968". This interview was conducted via e-mail and in person.
Abraham Ritchie: Where does the DePaul University Art Museum fit into the wider landscape of Chicago’s college art museums, and Chicago’s many museums in general?
Louise Lincoln: Despite the number and quality of local academic museums, DePaul does occupy a distinct niche: our exhibition program is deliberately eclectic, but tied to the university curriculum, and we are building a collection in well-defined areas that reflect the character of the university. We seem to be the only local museum collecting art from Chicago in a systematic way; this corresponds well to DePaul's “rootedness” in Chicago. We're acquiring Latin American art, especially photographs, as well as African American art, Islamic art, and Eastern European material, in relation to the demographics of the city. A small group of contemporary African works bridges traditional African material and twentieth century international styles. And for the same reasons we're interested in work that relates to the subject of immigration. We're not trying to be small but encyclopedic, as the Smart is; DePaul is not the University of Chicago. We are not limited in media, as the Block and Columbia are; not focused on a broad theme, as LUMA [Loyola University Museum of Art] is.
With regard to other local museums, our distinctiveness is connected to our teaching mission, and that affects exhibition selection and collection building. We don't have to choose exhibitions because they will draw audiences, we're not locked into the “Impressionism cycle.” We pay a lot of attention to the quality of the content of exhibitions--whether they take on thorny and relevant issues, past or present. We had a chance to do a show about Abu Ghraib last year and we shoehorned it into the schedule in a couple of months--usually things are in development for a couple of years, but when you are small you can do that once in a while. We think of our exhibitions as discussions in visual form, and we like the discussion to be lively.
In terms of collecting, we're not committed to a masterpiece collection as, say, the Art Institute would be; I think that's a mistake for a teaching museum. We have some extraordinarily fine examples of classical African art, for example, but we also have some "tourist" works and some works less prized in the market, and that makes the learning process much richer--the discussion is not just about aesthetics, but also history, economics, even religious practice.
AR: As far as the collecting mission of the museum goes, you mentioned you have a commitment to Chicago artists. Could you expand on that and how you’re going about collection building?
LL: Among the areas that we are actively trying to build collections in, is definitely Chicago art and art from the region. We do it two ways; we’re interested in gifts, of course we’re receptive to the idea of gifts, and when we can we purchase works. In the past several years we’ve had a couple of artists come forward and they know what we’re trying to do and they’re supportive of the project. They’ve given us their own work and works by other artists, since artists trade work a lot. We’ve had several big gifts by donors and others.
For an exhibition like “1968” almost everything is on loan from private individuals or other institutions. But we bought this absolutely amazing Ralph Arnold painting, because he’s a Chicago artist who’s relatively unsung, he was African-American, all these [factors] are areas of interest for us. When we can we like to add a work or two from an exhibition we have, whether by gift or purchase, so that the fabric of the exhibition program is built into the collection. So we probably add 5-10 works by Chicago artists to the collection each year, more when there’s a major gift.
AR: So this is an ongoing priority for the museum? To have and build a collection of Chicago’s artists?
LL: Absolutely, yes.
AR: Since DePaul is a Catholic university, does Catholicism affect or influence the kind of exhibits that the DePaul Art Museum shows?
LL: DePaul is indeed a Catholic university, but one that is hospitable to and empathic with other religions and traditions. It has a distinguished history of openness in admissions and hiring, and with a few obvious exceptions there is nothing particularly "Catholic" about most of its course offerings, or most of the books in the library. We would serve our students and others badly if we restricted our content or approaches in exhibitions in any way. That said we have respected scholars on the faculty in Catholic Studies and Religious studies and we are pleased to collaborate with them on projects whenever it's appropriate. We certainly do shows that have a variety of religious content, but we feel no pressure or obligation to do so.
AR: I’ve noticed that DePaul has shown exhibits tied to political issues in some way, whether overtly like the current exhibit “1968” or the Augustus Sherman: Ellis Island Portraits. Do increasingly divisive politics require political shows?
LL: I'm tempted to answer this by saying simply that "politics" infuses everything, and if that is true of our exhibitions it is because we try not to do shows that are simply celebratory. [T]he projects we do have, I hope, [take] a critical and analytic approach that looks not just at objects but also the circumstances of their production, reception, and evolving interpretation. I'm not sure that it is related to the national or political moment. But I think you are right to see an interest, over time, in issues of social justice. On the other hand, we did a show a few years ago of images by the Afghan photographer Zalmai which in a certain way aestheticized conflict in Afghanistan in the 1980s--perhaps the reverse of drawing political content from aesthetically privileged objects.
AR: On the note of politics and contemporary art, where do politics enter into art today? Has art that is political become simply its own movement, "political art"?
LL: I think the whole idea of art with political content has come to be a deep split in the art world. It’s become a means of dividing people, it’s become a wedge in the art world. The idea of something with a little political content or open to political interpretation, even some historical references are perceived as political and are perceived as controversial, and you don’t see political art very successful in the market either. Which is also interesting.
AR: If a saint were to visit the museum, who would it be and why?
LL: With apologies, hagiography is not my strong suit! We would welcome any saint who wanted to visit, and for that matter any sinner as well.