Friday, June 29, 2007

Thievery and Trueness

This interview with LACMA Director Michael Govan is my new favorite toy. Poaching sentences and switching "L.A." to "Houston" is better than writing it myself!

Dan Flavin, untitled (to you, Heiner, with admiration and affection), 1973(Courtesy Museum Associates/LACMA)

The South has been growing, obviously. It’s also the generational thing. I almost think Houston is at the point where there’s no such thing as Houston artists anymore. Like New York, there was a point when there were New York artists, then all of a sudden it was just artists. I feel like that’s starting to happen here. Doing a Houston show now would be almost a nonstarter, I think, because of the diversity of practices and the number of artists. Also, the fact that Houston hasn’t yet hit critical mass attracts somebody like me because the museums are behind, like way behind.You just look at Houston and you start thinking, it’s going to catch up, right? How could it not — there’s not been a city in history that hasn’t had personal wealth, ethnic diversity, thriving business and good geopolitical location that hasn’t competed on that level.

Well, as far as I can see, cities have often changed their compositions over many ancient centuries to the present. And there’s always been culture and great cities, and it’s taken different forms depending on the kind of shape the city took. So let’s say all the future cities look like Houston. New York looks like Europe, but [what] was the last city you saw that was like New York? Shanghai, Beijing, Mexico City, Seoul — they all look like Houston. And so there’s going to be a different model. We’re just going to be part of that.

Until you reach a critical mass of prestige, you don’t get there. And that’s continuously eluded the MFAH in particular, and other museums, [...] we just don’t have the prestige that the Museum of Modern Art has. Now, we’re not going to get it instantly. You’re going to have to build it over time. It’s just a matter of investment. It’s a classic chicken-and-egg problem.If everyone with a good art collection in Houston donated their art collection in town, for example, critical mass would be instant. I’m not saying that’s going to happen tomorrow, but what you can see increasingly, given the interest in art collectors growing here, is that you don’t have to go far.

The place is littered with stories of people taking their marbles and going off somewhere else. There are two reasons: One, it’s somehow inherent in the place, its separateness and all that. The other is that there hasn’t really been a good enough idea to rally around. You know, a contemporary art museum is a great thing, but not everyone loves contemporary art.

Ahhh, theft. It makes a good point!