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A museum's descent into financial trouble.
September 19, 2011 11:30 AM   Subscribe

The American Folk Art Museum in New York City is said to be considering dissolution and dispersal of its outstanding collection of folk and outsider art.
posted by xowie (25 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
There are some really wonderful, odd things in that collection.
posted by R. Mutt at 11:35 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ugh, a friend's grandfather is well represented in that collection, so dad.
posted by The Whelk at 11:42 AM on September 19, 2011


This will always and forever be called the Blankie Museum to me.
posted by elizardbits at 11:43 AM on September 19, 2011


I've visited their space and they have a lovely collection and all (and a sizable crowd), but I can't help but think it was a mistake for the outside art museum to have primo midtown space.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:44 AM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love me some Martin Ramirez.

The story of the discovery of his "last works" is amazing:

An astonishing development during the run of that exhibition was the discovery of a group of previously unknown works: more than 120 works on paper were brought to the museum's attention by descendants of a doctor at DeWitt, Dr. Max Dunievitz—a remarkable find given that Ramírez’s known body of work up to that time had not exceeded about 300 drawings and collages.
posted by chavenet at 11:47 AM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also home to the Henry Darger study center

It seems like this sort of thing is happening a lot recently, and that's a tremendous shame.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:51 AM on September 19, 2011


Maybe move out of New York?
posted by bongo_x at 12:10 PM on September 19, 2011


For a while there was talk of some sort of art museum at/near ground zero, as part of its redevelopment.

The Drawing Center thought about it but backed away after being accused of being insufficiently patriotic.

The Folk Art Museum would fit perfectly there, and the tourists would love it.
posted by R. Mutt at 12:35 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've got mixed feelings about this. On one hand, it's sad, but... yeah. That museum. The way the space was built out and the way it was curated was so traditional, and it just didn't fit the art. You'd have an old advertising sign for apples just sitting on the wall in a cold void like it's a Mondrian, no context or whatever. The collection cried out for something different.
posted by phooky at 12:53 PM on September 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


outsiders are no longer welcomed in New York City unless they have massive amounts of money to their disposal :( i live in the East Village and it's like it's 1986 all over again with heroine addicts sleeping on door steps and a whole new generation of homeless with nowhere to go. it's heartbreaking.

that the Folk Museum is considering closing and dissolving is a testament about what billionaire and millionaire patrons find worthwhile to fund. Folk art isn't it.
posted by liza at 1:19 PM on September 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


...but I can't help but think it was a mistake for the outside art museum to have primo midtown space.

Agreed. It's a specialist sort of museum, and as such, unlikely to ever be able to afford midtown. Neighbouring the MoMA may have exacerbated the problem, in that it set itself up as a competitor for MoMA dollars, both in terms of walk-in traffic and also prestige donations.

and the tourists would love it.

Dunno about that. Americana doesn't necessarily attract foreign tourists in a way that, say, the Met or the MoMA does.

Perhaps something along the scale of the Museum of the City of New York or the Del Barrio would have been better -- respectable location, heritage property, accessible, but because it's not as central, much more managable in terms of overhead. Actually, the three of them as a cluster would have worked quite well.

I hope they make it. But if they don't, the Brooklyn Museum intuitively seems like a good fit.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:27 PM on September 19, 2011


I hope not. It is a fantastic collection.
posted by CherrySoda at 1:32 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a shame, but that building was just a terrible space for displaying art, especially this type of art.
posted by Mavri at 1:32 PM on September 19, 2011


I went there once for that Ramirez exhibit, which was fantastic. Felt like there wasn't enough time in a day to take it all in. You'd think some up-and-comers might donate to the museum just because they could be a more influential donor.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 1:34 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


“The big money collectors do not sit on that board; it’s not sought after,” Ms. Tsien said. “Being on the board of the Folk Art Museum doesn’t inch you up two more rungs on the social ladder.”

Talk about missing the point of the museum's mission and missing the point of why someone should sit on the board. I know, I know, reality is sad and hard and cold, but the few bits of gray matter left to me unsteeped in cynicism are made angry by this statement.
posted by smirkette at 1:40 PM on September 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Americana doesn't necessarily attract foreign tourists...

I must spend too much time in the city.... because by tourists, I meant all the american non NYers wandering around SoHo and downtown. LOL
posted by R. Mutt at 1:49 PM on September 19, 2011


outsiders are no longer welcomed in New York City unless they have massive amounts of money to their disposal

Funny, the hundreds of thousands of working-class immigrants in this city don't seem to agree. Maybe you mean "midtown Manhattan" more specifically? No great change in the city's real estate market seems to be implicated in the decline of this particular museum in any case.
posted by spitbull at 2:13 PM on September 19, 2011


Also: this does not mean that the folk (Das Volk) won't make art any more. Some folk always will.
posted by spitbull at 2:14 PM on September 19, 2011


Very Sad. I knew one of the artists in the collection, hate to see this happen. Its a wonderful collection of work.
posted by Mcable at 2:40 PM on September 19, 2011


When the new building first opened, my wife and I went to see the Darger show. I was surprised and excited to see they were also showing an extensive collection of early American crafts from the town where I grew up in Pennsylvania. I thought about bringing my parents next time they're in town. But when we finally got to the Darger exhibition, I saw lots of very confused people my parents' age looking bewildered when they got caught in the maze of Darger scrolls (drawings of huge battle scenes between adults and naked little girls with penises).
posted by Drab_Parts at 4:50 PM on September 19, 2011


I think this is a tragedy, but i wonder about the split between folk, outsider, and "real" artsits an dthe use function of it.
posted by PinkMoose at 4:57 PM on September 19, 2011


I've visited their space and they have a lovely collection and all (and a sizable crowd), but I can't help but think it was a mistake for the outside art museum to have primo midtown space.

This is pretty much the scuttlebutt inside the field - wrong location, not the smartest management, no long-term strategy.
posted by Miko at 8:26 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


When I visited that museum I found the architecture to be sort of faux-quirky detail/materials obsessive, but not ultimately connecting in a meaningful way with the work. The spaces seemed narrow, the placement of weathervanes felt like they should have some Restoration Hardware price tags hanging from them, and sense of one floor heaped on another never made me comfortable in that way you want when you want, and that you can experience when you're looking at, uh, Monets Water Lilies.

In that conflicted way, though, this work is a lot less "accessible" than people believe. Maybe they didn't attract the right $$Boardmembers, maybe the architecture was more trendy than synergistic, maybe they branded it, located it, and financed it incorrectly. But maybe New York City, or any city is not the right place for this rich, vernacular art. Duchamp said any art object in a museum for more than 25 years was dead. Great outsider and folk art is perhaps less understandable than the acres of modernist canvas that has been churned out of MFA programs, shown in reputable museums, and collected at the highest economic levels. If the potential overlords have passed on this genre it may not be such a bad thing.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 8:31 PM on September 19, 2011


The museum's trustees yesterday voted to keep the museum open, thanks to an undisclosed amount of money from the trustees and the Ford Foundation.
posted by plastic_animals at 6:11 AM on September 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's very cool news. Thank you plastic_animals.
posted by xowie at 7:37 AM on September 22, 2011


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