Curious Curation

New museum seasons show a new way of thinking

Photo: Saira Wasin's "Demockery II," part of CAC's upcoming Pakistani art show. Courtesy Saira Wasim

Now that the Cincinnati Art Museum and Contemporary Arts Center both have announced their 2011-2012 seasons, the biggest immediate story exhibition-wise is the amount of international interest the CAC already is getting for its Realms of Intimacy: Miniaturist Practice from Pakistan. That show, put together by Justine Ludwig, runs September-January.

But first, let’s mention a number of newsworthy items that Aaron Betsky, CAM’s director, revealed during an interview about his institution’s upcoming season:

• The Cincinnati Art Museum is close to an agreement with the Kennedy Heights Development Corp. to move into the vacant Kroger superstore on Montgomery Road with an off-site open-storage facility. That would give CAM a place for storage and also serve as a community-based satellite.

• The art museum has contracted with celebrated photographers Doug and Mike Starn to place one of their large-scale photo-installation projects inside the vacant Holy Cross Church in Mount Adams next fall. It will be part of 2012’s citywide FotoFocus event. Last year, environmental artist Shinji Turner-Yamamoto used the church, to great acclaim, for his CAC-sponsored Global Tree Project. (The CAC will participate in FotoFocus with a show of Andy Warhol Polaroids.)

• The CAM retrospective of late Cincinnati-born Pop artist Tom Wesselmann is definitely on and has a scheduled slot in spring of 2013. But the art museum doesn’t plan to present this sure-to-be-big show on-site. It plans to rent highly visible exhibition space elsewhere in Cincinnati.

Contemporary Arts Center’s Realms of Intimacy features five artists from Lahore’s National College of Art, all but one now living and working abroad, who have modernized Pakistan’s ancient practice of Mughal painting.

The CAC sent Ludwig to India to prepare.

“Justine for many years has had her eye on the art of India and Pakistan — and by now she has a knowledge of this that very few curators have,” says Raphaela Platow, CAC’s director/chief curator. “She definitely did a lot of research and a lot of meetings with artists. And this show is very much in demand. Very likely we’re going to collaborate with an institution in London because there’s a very large Pakistani population there. And then it might go to one other venue in the States.”

The CAC’s other shows are a Platow-curated one featuring Portuguese artist Juliao Sarmento doing site-specific work (September-July); an exhibition called Flux about the changing, interactive nature of music video, curated by RES magazine editor Jonathan Wells and Meg Grey Wells and featuring work by Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and an even newer generation of music-video directors (February-August); the first solo exhibition by Russian artist Dasha Shiskin, whose fantasy paintings use Communist utopian themes (February-May); the first U.S. show by the Greek artist Jannis Varelas, guest-curated by Athens Biennale co-founder Xenia Kalpaktsoglou (May-August); and the first U.S. show by New Zealand’s Francis Upritchard, who poses small painted-clay figures in unusual positions (May-August).

There might still be a smaller show featuring a big-name American or regional artist, but so far the season will have an internationalist bent. And in the future, the museum might bring in guest curators from India.

“It’s a very international program with many firsts, and there are some interesting thematic group exhibitions that include a wide variety of artists,” Platow says. “From my perspective, it’s a really healthy mixture. Our hope is to engage on an institutional level with people who work with art around the world. I feel that our program is global, and we have working experiences with artists around the world, but we still do what we do from a very Western perspective because we were all trained in the west.”

At the Art Museum, there are some shows that Betsky believes will be very popular, such as a small Monet one put together by Benedict Leca, who organized this season’s Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman. The exhibits announced include Fourth Floor Award-winning contemporary glass artist Darren Goodman (Sept. 17-Nov. 27); Darkness Into Light: (Dutch) Mezzotint Rediscovered (Sept. 24-Jan. 1); Art Deco: Fashion and Design in the Jazz Age (Oct. 8-Jan. 1); Picasso: Master Prints (from the museum’s collection; Dec. 17-March 25); Nick Cave: Meet Me at the Center of the Earth (Jan. 21-April 29); Monet: Giverny Landscapes (10 late-period paintings borrowed from Midwest institutions; Feb. 4-May 13); and The Art of

Sound: Four Centuries of Musical Instruments (from the CAM collection; June 9-Sept. 2).

Art Deco features fashion and design from the new Betty Colker collection. Some 50 fantastical soundsuits made by fashion designer/sound artist Nick Cave (not the Rock musician) will be placed throughout the museum.

Come fall, the main temporary-exhibition space at CAM will be transformed into a new area called The Collections. It will be filled with a display of objects usually in storage, and it will stay that way for at least a couple years.

“We really need to concentrate on our permanent collections,” Betsky says. “So we want to focus on the great spectacles that are in our collection, enhanced by very selective loans, and then use the opportunity when we have great art coming to town to reach out into the community and engage as many people as possible. But we do have some important exhibitions coming up, all of which we believe we will have great spaces for and which will generate a lot of excitement.”

For more on the upcoming seasons at CINCINNATI ART MUSEUM and CONTEMPORARY ARTS CENTER, visit and

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