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The Heart of the Art World

The Guggenheim in New York is one of the most renowned museums in the world. Richard Armstrong helms the iconic museum in the Upper East Side as director and also serves as head of the globally active Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which runs museums in Venice and Bilbao as well. Armstrong talks to OOOM about expensive art, scandals, rarities, death threats, Jeff Koons—and about why it may have been a mistake after all to offer to loan Donald Trump a golden toilet instead of the Van Gogh the president requested.

HERBERT BAUERNEBEL12. Juli 2018 No Comments

Richard Armstrong, Director of The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York

How much influence do curators, museum directors and gallerists have when it comes to the careers of artists?

Clever curators can of course foster the careers of artists like Danh Vo, who we are currently exhibiting. Even though the market acts like it’s irrational, part of the market is based on intelligence, and the way we trade that intelligence is verbally. Word about good artists tends to get around. If we find an artist that we can explicate in a good way, it has an influence on his or her market.

Which artists inspire you personally?

I feel a very strong affinity with work by Krišs Salmanis a Latvian artist. I am always interested in finding new people.

Do you often travel to scout for new artists?

Almost never.

Do you collect art yourself? What cool things do you have on your walls at home?

We have a lot of cool things, but we bought them when we didn’t have any money. Mike Kelly was a good friend of ours. My wife collected more than me. At one point, when we had no money at all, we gave as much money as we could to great artists.

How important is it for the Guggenheim brand to expand globally? Apart from Venice and Bilbao you are now also branching out to Abu Dhabi.

Venice is particularly successful; it has developed its own personality. Bilbao now even has a higher attendance than we have. The planning of Abu Dhabi is ongoing. Apart from that, we don’t have any further expansion plans. To make Abu Dhabi happen is going to absorb a lot of time and energy over the next few years.

There are kindergarten programs, like that of River School in New York, where groups of children visit museums like yours andwith guidance of an art teacherpaint pictures similar to those of Jackson Pollock, for example. Sometimes with amazing results. How do you explain to a child that his or her painting is not worth any money, whereas a Pollock costs millions?

I would say that for the proud parents the paintings of those young artists is worth a lot more than a Pollock. But I’m afraid that a few years later, when the child turns ten or eleven, the child may discover that he or she really has no talent. One of the reason that artists are so powerful is that they don’t conform. Pollock is a perfect example for that. In their non-conformity, these artists expand what we think of as acceptable. That is a powerful and rare quality.

In your opinion, what are some upcoming cities in the art scene?

I was just in Moscow, and I must say I was really impressed by the Garage Museum. It shows a very high quality of work presented in very involving exhibitions.

Apart from the Guggenheimwhich are the museums that every visitor to New York should see?

We are blessed in New York, because we have so many. The Metropolitan, the Whitney, of course. And then, if you’re still hungry, I’d certainly recommend the New Museum. And at the moment you think you need to calm down, I’d recommend the Morgan Library & Museum. But we have many other great museums as well.

Would you still consider New York to be among the most influential metropolises in the world?

We can take on all the other important art centers in the world, and it helps that there is a surplus of capital in this city. That said, Paris has collections, like the Louvre’s, that are incomparable.















12. Juli 2018