This article will look at the experiences of Singulart artists in museums: the process of being collected in a museum, why museums have been important for them, as well as offering advice for young artists.
Why public museums?
With the idea of permanence, it is a huge honour to be selected to be shown in a museum. It is therefore important for an artist’s career because it is one marker of the legitimacy of their work. Working with a public museum signals to collectors and buyers that their work has been approved by experts.
As we have seen, once an artist exhibits in a museum, their prices markedly increase at auction. There is a noticeably higher demand for their work, just as it happened for Peter Doig and Jeff Koons, for example.
Museums also allow further outreach and exposure for artists. Hence, public museum exhibitions are particularly interesting for those who are starting their career.
Public museums VS commercial art galleries
While commercial art galleries allow artists to sell art, a museum is an institution which has a story to tell. Artworks in museum collections are chosen as objects of cultural, historical, or scientific importance to be presented to the public.
Laddie John Dill
Laddie John Dill has had over 60 solo exhibitions and 150 group shows worldwide. Among these exhibitions, he has worked with the LA County Museum of Art and the MoMA NYC. His career began with showing his artworks in public museums and high-end galleries, making him the renowned artist he is today.
Museums in Laddie’s career
When asked about his favourite memory in public museums, Laddie pertained that working with the MoMA remains the most unique experience of his career. Back in 2011, the MoMA acquired his Sand Piece exhibit at the David Zwirner gallery in NYC. His art piece was made of sand, glass and tubes. The MoMA purchased seven pounds of sand. Laddie was worried that the museum would acquire the piece but never show it – a year later, the MoMA asked Laddie to install his piece.
The artist highlighted the level of professionalism that came with the installation which made this experience so unique – enjoying the fact that he was able to do his own thing without any complications. With five helpers assigned to him making the process much smoother. This was a different experience for him than with smaller galleries where artists sometimes have to micromanage.
Furthermore, the installation took a week to put together. During this time, the museum was open, so visitors were able to see the entire installation process, making the experience even more special. The MoMA plans to make a Light and Space show with Laddie as soon as the COVID-19 crisis calms down. Laddie’s artworks are seen internationally – below is an installation at the Museo Acheologico di Napoli in 2017.
When asked to offer advice to younger artists, Laddie said:
“Shoot high. Do not lower your expectations. If you are unsure about working with a gallery or museum then don’t do it. You are allowed to say no. Do not approach the galleries, let the galleries approach you”
Dutch Painter Pieter Ceizer is currently working on a collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. This December, Pieter will present his very own version of Van Gogh’s still life “Quinces, Lemons, Pears and Grapes”. As well as a capsule collection clothing in collaboration with the Museum.
Ceizer X Van Gogh Museum
Ceizer’s work is based in Paris, so this collaboration in Amsterdam is an opportunity for the artist to reconnect with his Dutch roots. It is also an opportunity to explore his inspiration found in Van Gogh’s paintings. Like Van Gogh, Pieter left the Netherlands to move to Paris. Moving to Paris changed Van Gogh’s art; In 1886 he began using brighter colours and lighter colours such as yellow.
Similarly, Paris was a place of change for Ceizer’s art where he collaborated with French companies such as Colette, Air France, Ralph Lauren. He offered to Paris his universe of bright colours, dancing shapes, poetry and empowerment.
Exhibiting in a museum such as the Van Gogh Museum is a way for Ceizer to show that contemporary art can be connected to icons. Pieter hopes to implant ideas in the mind of the public and positively influence their thoughts, to show that art is everywhere. His collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum is a chance for Pieter to reach a new and perhaps different audience and explore his inspiration.
For Pieter, getting this co-sign of an institute such as the Van Gogh Museum is an acknowledgement of his existence as an artist. To emerging artists, Ceizer says:
“Life is not a to-do list. Keep investing in yourself and your art, you will attract the rest naturally“.
Sol Kjøk is a Norwegian artist based in NYC. Her work is included in the permanent collections of museums across three continents: Cincinnati Art Museum in the US; the Shaanxi Province Art Museum in X’ian, China; the Osten Museum of Drawings in Skopje, Macedonia; and Teckningsmuseet in Laholm, Sweden.
All of Sol’s works in public museum collections are drawings depicting herself and friends forming various constellations of naked bodies suspended in space.
The importance of museums
Sol believes it is important to exhibit in a public museum as an artist because, similar to academic and professional credentials, representation in museum collections adds another layer of official legitimacy to one’s practice. It says that the work has been assessed and approved by art world experts.
“This makes my pieces more sought after by collectors. More importantly, museum inclusion contributes to greater exposure: My message reaches more people, which is ultimately the driving force for me”.
To young artists, she says you need that same combination of persistence and luck on which all successful artists’ careers are built: despite all setbacks and rejections, you have to keep making the work and you have to keep putting it out there in the public eye, preferably in settings where it may come to the attention of museum curators.
Roger Ballen is one of the most influential photographers of the 21st century. The South African artist is collected in numerous international museums including the MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, the Centre Georges Pompidou and the V&A. He started showing in public museums in the year 1995, and recalls one of his first big exhibitions at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 1994.
We spoke about his most recent retrospective exhibition at the Francisco Carolinum Museum in Linz, Austria: Roger the Rat, which has pictures spanning over his entire 50-year career. The exhibition is divided by series that originated from book publications- most of the images selected are iconic from his career, as well as his latest “Roger the Rat” publication.
The Roger Ballen collection of images were hung very aesthetically, with labels for each series, displayed in large but subtle lettering.
Ballen’s pictures are very psychological, such that few people forget about them. They have the ability to launch themselves into the subconscious mind of the viewer. He tells us that he finds his inspiration from his own work, expressing that “ if you’re not inspired by what you do, then you’re never going to do it very well”.
Ballen came to be well known through film, as well as his photography. A career can accelerate through many different mediums.
Ballen’s piece of advice for young artists is to make sure they work on a coherent body of work which they can shot to curators of museums. It is also important to make sure that the chief curator has an affinity to the work as this affects the outcome of the exhibition.
He added that there is no clear path or simple formula since there is very little objectivity in the art world. If you feel strongly about what you are doing, then you should contact the museums and make an appointment.
Being an artist takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Having a passion for what you do and maintaining a high standard is important.
Renowned artist Peter Bardazzi has exhibited his works in art galleries, museums and even university museums, from the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Japan to the Whitney Museum of American Art and MoMA, NYC.
MoMA purchased his artwork “Untitled” (below) in 1971, of an expressive abstraction of machine elements swirling in space. What Bardazzi recalls from this experience is that he did not choose to exhibit at the MoMA. The MoMA chose him. Peter believes that this is an important thing for artists to not force themselves on anybody nor on art institutions.
To him, commercial galleries and public museums have different responsibilities in the way they represent art. Commercial galleries have to sell art and artists. Public museums are more about appreciating art as it is, and aim to reach a wider audience. Commerce and contemporary art interact in constant dialogue.
Exhibiting in public museums has helped Peter Bardazzi to become validated as a relevant and serious artist. He expressed that when a major institution sees you as a contemporary artist producing fresh ideas in an experimental way, you feel a strong sense of responsibility to create good art too.
When offering advice to emerging artists, Bardazzi recommends approaching museums and art institutions that follow your ideas and questions. Furthermore, he believes that sometimes, “the smaller the better” in order to share your artwork as authentically as possible.
Just a year after retrieving his diploma from The Royal Academy of Art in Holland KABK, he was invited to build an installation of LED lights and loudspeakers at this museum. Max-Jakobsen was the first guest artist to work in the newly built AIR at Vendsyssel Museum of Art in 2003. When we asked Peter why he thought showing in public museums was important, he said:
“I think every artist feels it’s very important. I guess that feeling derives from the fact that, that’s where [in museums] most of us actually meet art for the first time in our lives. You have the feeling that that’s home of the art. The museum serves as a filter to only present the spearhead of the contemporary artscene.”
Through his art, he investigates the depths of normality. He describes endless grey weekdays that are filled with ‘existential questions and stormy heights’. Most of his inspiration derives from philosophical novels. Lots of people in Scandinavia write about situations in everyday life, and he finds these endlessly fascinating.
Danish artists that Max-Jakobsen feels artistically connected to include Palle Nielsen (1920-2000), Christian Lemmerz (1959-) and Jørgen Haugen Sørensen (1934-).
International artist Norman Lerner shared his experience with public museums. For instance, he worked with the Metropolitan Museum of New York, the Housatonic Museum of Art in Connecticut as well as the MoMA, NYC.
Recalling his experience, Norman explained that he would paint watercolours as a way to relax after his workday as an editorial fashion photographer.
Without going to school nor following any training, Norman believes he was born an artist. It is from his passion that he took the photography series “The Window People” that got him famous. Sometime later, this series was purchased and exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
For Norman, public museums are there to show innovative works and preserve these works for future generations to see. Museum work demands a lot of work, exposure and promotion, and in the end, timing and luck are crucial which cannot be controlled.
Norman uses his last name “lerner” as an advice to be a learner of life and arts. An artist has to explore, study and experience to find inspiration from life. If there is no life, there is no inspiration.
Mexican artist Alejandro Arango exhibited his work at the MET in NYC. His artwork Invocation was purchased by curator William Lieberman in the 1990s. From him, exhibiting at a public museum is where it all connects: The artist, the collectors, the art lovers, the media and much more. Museums are places where you can show your art to everybody the best works you’ve ever made.
For Arango, museums are a window to all kinds of people and it is what makes an artist’s career stronger. To get there, Alejandro believes that it is important for an artist to be honest with yourself and disciplined. Finally, one must remain faithful to one’s art no matter what.
Exhibiting in public museums is a privilege for artists to gain exposure and legitimacy. In fact, museums are as important as galleries in the art world because they are the place where we all make our first art discoveries.
Hence, public museums play an important role in both the artist and the viewer’s life when it comes to art. Artworks which have been selected become important cultural markers. The testimonials of the artists show how different it can be to exhibit in a public museum and impact an artist’s career forever.