Five years ago, on Sept. 21, the Anderson Collection at Stanford University opened to the public. What was true then is true now: The remarkable collection that is anchored in the New York School and Bay Area Figuration, and incorporates key modern and contemporary artists collected in depth and across media, is a breathtaking survey of post-World War II American art.
What has changed in the last five years is the original installation and the dramatically expanded public programs. The number of works in the collection has also increased.
The Anderson Collection added 13 works of art to the original 121 in 2017: a watercolor and gouache by Minnesota abstract painter Bill Jensen given by Mary C. Downe; three sculptural works and eight works on paper by Bay Area figurative artist Manuel Neri given by The Manuel Neri Trust; and a painting by Los Angeles-based contemporary artist Mary Weatherford given by Debra and Steven Wisch, ’83, in honor of the Anderson family. Other works by Jensen and Neri were part of the original gift from Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson and Mary Patrica Anderson Pence to Stanford. The Weatherford gift brings the number of artists represented in the collection to 87.
The Anderson Collection will host an anniversary celebration on Saturday, Sept. 21, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., featuring live music by Taiko SOBA and The Stray Horns, pop-up curator talks and art making.
Jason Linetzky, director of the Anderson Collection from the very beginning, sat down with Stanford Report to discuss his approach to directing the museum and what’s in store for the museum in the next five years.
A twofold reinstallation in the permanent galleries, unveiled this week, marks the fifth anniversary and it combines permanent and loaned works. Left of Center: Five Years of the Anderson Collection at Stanford University focuses on the relationship between artists represented in the collection and the American West, and Jim Campbell presents the artist’s LED-based works paired in conversation with permanent collection works. Left of Center was curated by seven PhD candidates in the Department of Art and Art History in the School of the Humanities and Sciences. What do you think surprised the students the most about an installation of this size?
We are fortunate to have such curious and eager students at Stanford, and working with them to reinstall our permanent collection reinforced the many ways it can be thought about, discussed, presented and utilized as a tool for research and learning.
In particular, the students leading Left of Center created new wall texts and a wonderful catalog of essays. We’ve also had students contribute to wall texts for our new Jim Campbell installation and our Process and Pattern exhibition that’s now on view. Throughout the students’ process, they elected to focus on a select group of artists whose work connects to the ideas of innovation and experimentation often associated with the West Coast. They gained deeper insights into the curatorial process and workings of museums – and were perhaps surprised by just how many steps are required to produce a high-quality exhibition!
Since the opening, the Anderson Collection has always mounted temporary loan exhibitions in the Wisch Family Gallery on the first floor. Last year you started experimenting with temporary exhibitions upstairs among the permanent collection. For example, the Jim Campbell exhibition currently on view, and before that a corner of the second floor was devoted to Elizabeth Murray’s work. Will visitors continue to see temporary exhibitions both upstairs and downstairs in the future?
Yes! This is a living museum. It is a place where novel ideas, artistic innovation and the presentation of new work can help visitors engage in new ways with the transformative works that make up the permanent collection. Future loans, reinstallations and collaborations with artists will present opportunities to view these works in a new context.
For example, Jim Campbell’s installation provides exciting new opportunities to reengage and rethink the permanent collection. The current Wisch Family Gallery exhibition, Process and Pattern, presents four profoundly influential American artists whose work makes us look closely and inspires us to reflect upon the past and its impact on the present.
You have invited musicians, dancers and creative writers into the galleries to perform. Students in the Architecture Program have installed projects in front of the building. Documentary films are screened in the Denning Family Resource Center during extended hours on Thursday nights. Was this kind of interdisciplinary programming part of your mission from the beginning, or has working at a university museum inspired you to think beyond the visual arts?
From the beginning, I felt that we had fantastic opportunities to contextualize the permanent collection through programming. The extent to which this has grown is very exciting.
A few weeks after opening the museum, we welcomed into our galleries a dance performance by the Chocolate Heads that took inspiration from the collection and museum architecture. It provided a different context through which to experience the art and building. We’ve also had performances in our space by puppeteer Basil Twist, choreographer and performer Molissa Fenley, members of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) community and the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Stanford’s ensemble-in-residence.
In a similar way, having students visit from all disciplines across campus, and visitors with various interests from across the community, allows for cross-pollination of ideas, scholarship and discussion. Bringing together those ideas through encounters with arts is one of the most important roles a university art museum can play.
At five years old, the Anderson Collection can still be considered new, but visitors may have already proclaimed certain works or programs “old favorites.” What are a few things that you have no plans to change, lest your visitors revolt?
There are certain “fan favorites” that are included in our reinstalled permanent collection, including works by Richard Diebenkorn, Joan Mitchell, Jackson Pollock and Wayne Thiebaud.
The Anderson Collection has become home to these and many other remarkable works and it’s our goal to ensure the entire community has an opportunity to continue living with and taking inspiration from them, while also offering programming that helps us think about the works, and our own lives, in new ways.