Friday, October 26, 2012

Interview with Matthew Teitelbaum on Canadian Art's website

On Wednesday morning, I interviewed Matthew Teitelbaum over the phone for Canadian Art's website.

Mostly, we discussed museum strategy stuffs. I had also really wanted to ask him about all the recent announcements of private-collection museums in Canada (like David Mirvish's and Michael Audain's) and what that means for public museum collections. So I did that.

In retrospect, I wish I had asked him about the ongoing concern many in the Toronto art community have that the museum does not reflect the artists here all that well--or in the rest of Ontario, I might add. But I didn't. Sorry! Here's an excerpt of the interview:

LS: On a different collections note—this month, two prominent Canadian collectors, David Mirvish and Michael Audain, announced plans to open their own private-collection museums. How do you feel about this development, given that it would seem to set some of their most important works off-limits from public Canadian museum collections?
MT: Well, you know, the short answer is that I think it’s terrific. I think it’s terrific that two extraordinary collectors—both in Canada and on the international stage—are making their work available to the public. I mean, the most important thing is that people who care about art, that students, that people who are thinking about what the visual arts mean in our culture are going to have access to two private collections.
And I think quite easy access, I might say—access in a way that truly celebrates both the collectors and these great works of art. So, you know, I’m not somebody who believes in the museum as the absolute pinnacle of recognition or legacy. I think there are many different routes to that, and this is one of them. I think it’s just terrific that they are thinking in that public-minded way.
LS: Private-collector museums have been a trend throughout the world for some time. Are there any particularly Canadian implications of this trend taking off here? I saw you in Miami last year where this type of institution is quite prevalent; does this signal a move to a more American-style situation in Canada?
MT: That’s a good question. I think it relates back to the frustration that many collectors have around the fact that offering collections to museums often means that works of art are hidden from public view. So it’s really a strategic response to the question, How can I make the work available to the public? And you know, those collectors who have chosen this route have, at the core, made a judgment that this is the best way for their work to be celebrated.
What I keep an eye on is the question of access. What I keep an eye on is the question of how these private collections refresh and give energy to the presentation of work.
But, you know, the reality is that we live in a really complicated time around issues of presentation of works of art. I mean, when Gagosian Gallery or White Cube create spaces that rival some of the very best museum spaces in the world and present exhibitions that are truly extraordinary by any standard in terms of the loans they get and the publications they produce, you see the beginning of the blurring between the public and the private world.
So there’s no doubt that in this complicated time there’s going to be blurring between the public museum and the private foundation. That’s why I think the most important issue to focus on is issues of accessibility—because I think one can find oneself in a dead end very quickly if one thinks about ownership as the sole question, i.e. that giving to the museum or giving to the public trust is the highest calling.
You know what the highest calling really is? To make work accessible and to have it shared by the broadest number of people.
For the rest, read on at Canadian Art. 
FYI the works the AGO ended up acquiring at Art Toronto were by Stephen Andrews, Itee Pootoogook and Julia Dault. 
(Image of Teitelbaum courtesy of the AGO)

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