Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 The Year That Was: Changes at the Top


The New Orleans art scene has long appeared so stable and cohesive as to seem nearly immune to the wild ups and downs of major art capitals like New York--until this year. But 2010 has been a doozy in any number of ways, especially at the institutional level, where there were many changes at the top, some very sudden. As far as local artists and galleries were concerned, the situation was more normal as the scene continued to expand, in some ways exponentially, as three major art events, Prospect.1.5, Des Cours and PhotoNOLA all overlapped in December, with PhotoNOLA alone staging over 50 exhibitions such as Priya Kambli's COLOR FALLS DOWN expo, above, at Antenna. As in years past, especially since Katrina, many young artists continued to move here, and new art spaces, including the deluxe Martine Chaisson Gallery in the Arts District, popped up. And our best-known galleries all survived another year despite a bad national economy that was locally exacerbated by a major environmental catastrophe. Chalk it up to New Orleans exceptionalism, the intangibles of a culture based more on love than money.  
     One of the earlier transitions this year was the resignation of Joy Glidden from her post as director of Louisiana Artworks, the big multipurpose art facility on Lee Circle. Credited with successfully overseeing its emergence as a force in the local art world, Glidden is now the director of the public television series Art Index TV. Current Louisiana Artworks' acting director Ariel Brumley wants people to know, "We are open, but most of our resources are going toward completing construction on the upper floors that had been delayed, after which we will conduct a search for a full time director. We have PhotoNOLA's PICTURES OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL photography show in the gallery, and the Community Printshop under the direction of Meg Turner maintains its full schedule of activities."  
     When it comes to making news, the Ogden Museum of Southern Art has long been a leader. Late last year its longtime director, Richard Gruber, resigned amid rumors that the Ogden was in financial trouble, and in fact a state audit confirmed that it was. The audit, released last month, dated from 2009, and last year the Ogden hired Lisa McCaffety as chief operations officer to bring some order to finances that had suffered since hurricane Katrina. When the audit went public last month, board chairman Julia Reed was able to quickly announce that its findings were old news and that the museum had balanced its books and restructured its debt. Then on December 10, Reed announced that longtime curator David Houston, who with McCaffety had been appointed co-director just last January, had resigned. She offered no specifics, saying she did not want to speak for him, but McCaffety stated that it was not related to museum finances. Houston, who declined to comment, was known for his comprehensive curatorial insight into how old and new, modern and traditional Southern art fit together, as well as for his ability to stage high quality shows on a shoestring budget, so art lovers were left scratching their heads and wondering if finding a curator as well suited to the Ogden's unique needs might be easier said than done. Reed told us that former director Rick Gruber would be working with acting curator Bradley Sumrall, and that we would be seeing more exhibitions featuring the paintings of Ogden board member William Dunlap, which seemed to occur all the time back when Gruber was in charge, among other new shows planned for 2011. Continued: Click for More>>