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Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Acquiring Art at Auction— Part 1

Auction graphic

As a graduate student dreaming of a future museum career, my idea of a curator’s job was glamorous. I imagined working on the layout of exhibitions, attending opening cocktail parties, taking trips to museums, accessing art treasures in storage, and sitting in a crowded auction to bid on art for the collection.

I admit that a curator’s job is pretty cool, but in reality it is only about 10% those glamorous things and 90% email. This spring, however, I’m thrilled to be working to purchase an object for the Museum’s collection at auction, and I’m going to share the steps through this blog. Welcome to Step 1 of the process!

Just a warning: You might find this post partially un-gratifying, because until the deal is done and the papers are signed, I can’t disclose precisely what the object is. Why is that? Read on…

When it is known that a museum is interested in an object, it can drive up the price at auction. As we present art to the public, research art for our exhibitions, and add art to our collection we (in a roundabout way) lend an artistic “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” to the selected objects. Those artists and works that we present often become more valuable on the open market simply because of the museum attention. If a museum did an exhibition on, say, Homer Laughlin “Fiestaware” ceramics, I’d bet that eBay sale prices would see an uptick. Can you imagine being in an auction and seeing a curator from the Met waving a bid card? A first thought would be “Oh, that painting must be good!” and you might add to the bidding frenzy!

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Behind the Scenes Exhibitions Library/Archives

Listen to Frank–“The past always hangs to the future by a thread”

Frank Lloyd Wright, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, 1954. World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)
Frank Lloyd Wright, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left, 1954. World Telegram & Sun photo by Al Ravenna. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection (Library of Congress)

“… Remember this, that society always continues. That the past always hangs to the future by a thread. And organic architecture and the thought behind it and the philosophy it represents is going to be that thread. I am sure of it. …” –Frank Lloyd Wright

Recently, while sifting through hundreds of reel-to-reel recordings of past lectures, our Audio Visual Librarian Beret Balestrieri Kohn stumbled upon a lecture labeled “Historical Master: Reel #93 Frank Lloyd Wright 1940-50 – Lecture at Episcopal at Nashotah.” We sent the recording away for professional transfer and, upon its return, settled into a quiet office to listen to a lecture we thought would be about the work of Frank Lloyd Wright from 1940-1950.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Education

How Do They Do That?

Tools for the project and the 3/16" scale drawing.
Tools for the project and the 3/16" scale drawing.
Hi, I’m Kelli, one of the gallery and art preparators working behind the scenes here at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I’m one of the “they” who does what they “do”.

If you’ve been to the museum more than once, you’ve noticed that some of the galleries change from time to time. Sometimes we move paintings to a different spot in the room, other times we’ll move the walls into a different formation. This time, I’ve painted the walls and the carpet. That’s right–I said carpet.

Categories
Behind the Scenes Education

Meet Ayiana, Voice of our Family iPod Touch Tours!

Ayiana is hard at work recording the "A is for Art" tour. Photo by Sandy Goldberg.
Ayiana, hard at work recording the "A is for Art" tour. Photo by Sandy Goldberg.
Get ready: The Museum is launching its first iPod Touch Tour for families on March 12, 2011! It is currently in production. Here’s Ayiana Scott–she is 7 years old and one of our narrators for the A is for Art tour, designed especially for younger viewers. She’s the voice behind the tour.

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Library/Archives

Museum Library – Used Book Sale, March 3-6!

Museum basement corridor lined up with books ready to sell!

It’s book sale time again! With its Used Book Sale, the Museum’s George Peckham Miller Art Research Library is thrilled to provide the community with the opportunity to purchase those materials that are either duplicative or outside of the library’s collecting area. And, of course, all the proceeds benefit the library’s book acquisition fund.

This is an exciting time of year for the library staff as it draws together two years (the last used book sale was in 2009) of cataloguing, organizing, and streamlining the library collection.