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life of riley

Post #720 • January NaN, 2006, NaN:2: AM • 18 Comments

Tyler wonders:

Is this a gauge of MAM's standing in Miami or are Miami's arts bloggers just interested in other things: Only one of the three Miami art blogs on my blogroll have mentioned [Terrence] Riley's hiring as of this posting. And that was a one-sentence mention at the end of a much-longer post.

I can only speak for myself, but we're talking about a museum that has had a spate of so-so shows lately with six- to ten-month runs. (I thought Kathleen, who docents there, would be all over this, but it's been blog silence chez The Next Few Hours.) The expansion project slated for MAM has the pall of the Performing Arts Center looming over it, a money pit that has dealt with its critics by retaliating against them. (Alesh gets credit for commenting on this first, locally.)

I feel positive about the fact that he worked at MoMA and knows what an important museum looks like. His record? I dunno - how excited do you want me to get about an architecture guy? The board is trying to build a museum, so they got a museum builder. The devil on my shoulder whispers in my ear that Delehanty and curator Cheryl Hartup left when they did because the prospect of closing the $100 million gap between the bond ordinance and the total budget, which was only disclosed after the mayor started playing hardball with the museum, looked bleak. (No proof of this, by the way - just my speculation. You can bet the flacks down at MAM wouldn't cop to any such thing. Oh, the rumors I have... but I digress.) But Riley, here, he seems like he could do it. Three things:

1. Whom he ends up hiring as curators affects my life more than anything else. Until he makes those hires, I'm waiting to get enthused about him.

2. The reason that the four top art collectors in town (as rated by that silly system in Whatevart Magazine) have little to do with MAM seems to stem from friction between the collectors and the board, as far as I can get anybody to admit it. I suspect that much of the lethargy surrounding MAM's programming has to do with the board, and whether Riley can either energize it or do an end run around it is an open question. (I feel similarly about the Collections Council (PDF), which might work, or might turn into the nastiest exercise in conflicted interests you can imagine.)

3. MAM has to become as exciting as Art Basel/Miami Beach. I've long been harping about the improvement of the non-AB/MB portion of the calendar (you know, the other 51 weeks), but really, until the museums step up to the plate, we're just a resort town for the art world whose primary virtue is that in December, it's warmer in Miami than it is in Switzerland. Is that within Riley's power? Here's where we find out.

Comment

1.

woohoo

January 6, 2006, 1:02 AM

maybe MAM will finally give you a much deserved solo show.

2.

Franklin

January 6, 2006, 1:11 AM

And a pony.

3.

Otto

January 6, 2006, 4:38 AM

Critical Miami was on it!

4.

onajide

January 6, 2006, 5:44 AM

Well, that's nice of Tyler however, I have more than a blog... I have an entire website that he did NOT see because I posted a longer piece on the appointment including a picture of Mr. Riley. here

5.

Franklin

January 6, 2006, 9:38 PM

Cheryl Hartup. Not, um, what I wrote. Don't let me do stupid stuff like that.

6.

Cat

January 7, 2006, 12:04 AM

Terrence Riley. ..New York breeze. I'm optimistic.

7.

Jack

January 7, 2006, 1:47 AM

Everything remains to be seen, and I'm not interested in anything but tangible changes or results. An architecture guy, however, would certainly not have been my preference, and whatever he may do for MAM architecturally is of only secondary interest to me, at best. One of my major gripes has always been the intense focus that's been placed on a new building as opposed to a better collection and better relations with local big-money collectors. If the board's the problem, the board must be changed. Bottom line: Don't ask me for support unless you've proved you deserve it. MAM never proved that to me, so I remain skeptical and unmoved until there's evidence (not promises) to persuade me.

8.

alesh

January 7, 2006, 7:08 AM

Jack ~ I agree that his background in architecture appears to be much stronger then anything else that we can infer about him. I can only assume that in interviews, the trustees found Riley to be an intelligent, competent presence. I would much rather have someone like that then someone with some sort of "proven record in museum management in positions of increasing responsibility . . ."

Franilin~ Personally, I think #3 is a pretty tall order for one guy. Does MAM have to become as "exiting" as AB/MB? I don't really think so . . . not "exiting." Actually, i'm not sure what adjective you'd use when comparing a museum and an art fair. As for making "the other 51 weeks" better, the galleries and artists need to do their part, and I think it's coming along pretty well. Also, the quintupling of gallery space is bound to create an increase in excitement, regardless of the director.

I actually didn't realize that there was a big fundraising task at hand (oh, it's only $100 million? nevermind), but yeah, that'd be a good test of his effectiveness. And of course, the associate curator hiring - that'll be a good hint of what he has in mind (I know who I'd like to see in the spot).

In the last couple of months, I've been to the Art Institute of Chicago and the Kunsthistorisches Museum and Belvedere in Vienna (did you know that Klimt's Kiss is square, by the way?), and I've realized that getting the kind of collection y'all have been talking about in Miami is out of the question - it's too late! Anything halfway decent from before the 20th century is already in a museum somewhere, and the 20th century stuff is selling for absurd prices. So traveling shows are probably our only hope. I still hope they let the current MAM building become a new institution, with a different mission statement (ie bringing NON western-hemisphere and NON-20 and 21 century art), but we'll just have to wait and see. Or maybe move to San Antonio. Or Boston. Or something.

9.

Jack

January 7, 2006, 7:32 AM

Alesh, we all know a Miami version of the Kunsthistorisches or the Prado or the National Gallery in London is out of the question. Nobody is even remotely expecting MAM to turn into that. However, in order to get my respect and support (wanted or not), MAM must put on better shows and more of them (I don't care where the stuff comes from).

This business of mediocre exhibitions that stay up forever and a day is not just annoying--it's insulting. So is something blatantly self-serving (but of little if any interest to the vast majority of the public) like the notorious museum architecture show (Gee, what a coincidence!). In other words, don't screw with me: deliver the goods or go into a joint venture with the Miami Children's Museum (or whatever it's called).

10.

Thierry Kron Traube

January 7, 2006, 9:59 AM

I live in Zürich, go every year to the real Basel Art Fair and went twice to the Miami Basel Fair, of course it's because I often make hollydays in sunny Florida, cause the Fair here in Miami is not worth even driving from Lauderdale to SoBe.
I really like the MMAM, come in everytime I am in the area, it is very cosy and nice people are working there, you've got good exhibitions, a small but interesting bookshop, sorry tjo read you have problems with building a bigger place, sorry that the big collectors are not as generous as the Rich People from other states and as the Swiss, Museums are a good thing to let a region know you are a great capitalist with the finest taste in the most contemporary Art, I am not kidding, I really mean it!
I had quite a scandal at MMAM, the janitor told me not to make nots with my Mont Blanc, that I dropped on the floor, full of rage, and it broked.
That was my second problem in a Museum, the first one was in Berlin at the Hamburger Bahnhof, where a janitor told me I could not wear a shirt on my shoulders, I could hit some paintings! I told him he was an old Vopo, an old policemand from the ex communist goverment and up he went calling security. The result was that my Friend/Lover/Lifemate told me if I want to still share my life I have to go see a shrink, I have done it for now many years, now the old janitors are in pension, even the one at MMAM I guess. Well next time I visit the MMAM around Easter, I will take some coal pencil, that "is" what is "allowed"!
Franklin, if you are not happy with me, don't call security, sometimes I am quiet fun!

11.

Thierry Kron Traube

January 7, 2006, 10:33 AM

Dear Alesh, I understand you make those remarks but think there are Museums of great quality, or place for just temporary exhibitions, in very little towns in Gemany and Switzerland, not speaking of the new Paul Klee Fondation in Bern/Switzerland where two Tycons, ex partners, wanted to spend more money than the other and steal the show.
You don't need a Museum like in Vienna, Miami is not NYC and visitors like me would be very happy to see Art that we don't see between Berlin and London, NYC and L.A., between Kunst Messe Köln, Basel and Chicago Art Fair. We would be very glad to see artists that are not on the obligatrory route of Art's freaks.
There is enough money in Florida to make Miami a spot where there is something to see, the actual MMAM was a good beginning, I remember in the 80th a Museum in Palm Beach that was very bad, Names on the walls but the kind of paintings the artists painted before they made of their name "A Name", mostly impressionists. If you visit the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, you really can see how Vincent became what he is known for, just a few years before he died, the works of his prime time was sometimes very bad. And by the way building up a collection is like planting trees in a Park , it can be for the next generation.
The Design District is also something that added quality to visiting Miami.

12.

Jack

January 7, 2006, 10:06 PM

Just read the official MAM press release concerning Riley's hiring. It's not exactly encouraging. The guy is a serious architecture wonk, which is fine for him and others like him, but we're not talking about an architecture museum--or are we? There's essentially no indication he's especially well qualified to run an art museum (the point is not that he comes from MOMA, but rather what he was doing there and what he's done his entire career so far).

Then, of course, there's this (his words):

Miami is truly on the verge of greatness in the art world, and its prominence is growing every day. The entire art world knows that Miami and MAM are on the cusp of becoming leading centers for art internationally

I know. It's a press release. It's supposed to sound bombastic. It's PR time. Still, it's laying it on a bit too thick for my taste. Make that way too thick. Again, don't promise me; show me. In a word, deliver.

13.

Jeremy

January 8, 2006, 1:52 AM

What an ending. Geez, you just summed up my worries about staying in Miami to try and build my career.

14.

oldpro

January 8, 2006, 4:06 AM

Let's hope they did not hire him for architecture reasons, That would be idiotic. If they need an architect to build a new building they will hire one to do that, not to run the museum. At least I hope so.

As Alesh indicated above, they probably found him to be someone whothey think can function under the severe constraints MAM has, which is that it is impossible at this late date to get a representative collection of modern art, and that he must deal with egos of the nouveau collecters, strutting and preening even as they abjectly chase fashion, and that 99% of the art people wouldn't know good art if it bit them in the butt and don't care anyway because they have other, more important, agendas. And also run the museum and do something about their programming.

This is a job for Superman. I think Mr. Riley better get a cape and tights and a shirt with an "S" on it. And lose the moustache & goatee, for sure. Then he can start trying to figure out what to do with the place.

15.

Jack

January 8, 2006, 4:52 AM

Reading between the lines of the New York Times article about Riley's move, linked to by Modern Art Notes, I suspect that what the MAM people continue to have as their top priority is the damn new building. Since Riley was closely involved with the MOMA renovation, and given his overwhelming emphasis on architectural and design matters, they probably figure he's what they need to be the next Guggenheim Bilbao, or some such thing. Talk about putting the cart before the horse.

16.

oldpro

January 8, 2006, 6:33 AM

or hiring a horse and telling him to build a new cart which will still go empty.

17.

Cat

January 8, 2006, 1:43 PM

...or maybe he will create a perfect environment
to show the finest work in the world. It could happen.

18.

that guy

January 10, 2006, 1:52 AM

Although he will need more than a superheros outfit to fix mam. Lets start with a new tie. I say artblog has a contest for the best design. I'll even silk screen the damn thing and mail it to him. Welcome to Miami Terence.

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