Posted in Museum

Gary Vikan and His Interesting Life as a Museum Director

Watching all three installments of Ben Stiller’s comedy film “Night at the Museum” makes me realize once again my childhood dream to work in a museum. I always have been curious about what kind of vibe the museum staff encounters every time they roam around the establishment. Are they getting scared sometimes? Is it always excitement and awe for them even if they go to the museum every day?

Good thing I found ExhibiTricks’s exclusive interview just last year with Gary Vikan, a longtime museum director or curator. Vikan served as curator for 28 years. How cool is that? Let’s find out what it’s like to work in a museum for almost three decades!

The Responsibilities of a Museum Director

First, we must understand the work of a museum director, who is also called a curator. Museum directors are responsible for the secured storage and procurement of archives, artifacts and artworks. They also facilitate exhibitions inside the museum. They purchase works of history and art, commonly through negotiations, to serve as the museum’s displays.

All about Gary Vikan

Check out Vikan’s personal and professional life inside and outside the museum through the years:

Background

In the later part of his career, Vikan was the director of Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum since 1994. He ended his work there by 2013. Before getting the director position, he was the assistant director for the same museum’s Curatorial Affairs starting 1985.

When it comes to Vikan’s university life before entering the world of museums, he was the senior associate of Harvard’s Center for Byzantine Studies. That time, he lived in Dumbarton Oaks, Washington D.C., not in Baltimore. Vikan achieved his BA in Carleton College. Years later, he accomplished his Ph. D. in Princeton University. Lastly, he was a graduate of the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program and the Harvard Program for Art Museum Directors.

Motivation to Work in Museums

What exactly motivated Vikan to pursue a career in a museum? The curator wanted to share the effect art has on him to other people. When he was a scholar in Harvard’s Center for Byzantine Studies, he was busy teaching people in the Smithsonian Residents’ Association Program. He aimed to relate with people and use his scholarship for the greater good. In order to connect with a huge group of people, he used his love for art as an inspiration.

Most Favorite Exhibitions

Vikan has two most favorite exhibitions, which are too different from each other when it comes to the subject in focus. His first favorite happened 25 years ago which was called “Holy Image, Holy Space: Icons and Frescoes from Greece.” That exhibition was his first most successful event because of the effect it gave to the visitors. Vikan could still remember seeing kiss marks on the Plexiglass of the icons. For him, it was a holy moment.

On the other hand, “Beauty and the Brain” is Vikan’s other favorite exhibition. It happened a few years ago. It was just a simple event, but it remained as Vikan’s one of the most beloved. The exhibition became successful because of its collaboration with one of Johns Hopkins’ neuroscientists. Vikan loved it so much because of how interactive it was. The visitors get to pick their favorite shape among the multitude of shapes with subtle differences. Vikan explained that the visitors eventually realized that they are “hard wired” to connect with specific shapes.

Latest Achievement

Vikan managed to publish his controversial book titled “Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director” last year. He aimed to share to the public the darker side of museums because he knew that he lived to tell stories. He had stories that he could not express as a director. Now that he is retired, he is already free to write any book about these stories. He believed that people deserve to know everything about the strange things happening in art museums.

Final Thoughts

Museums are essential to preserve art and history. Without them, humans would have less connection with their forefathers. Museums hold the heart and soul of mankind.

Posted in Art

Artist Appreciation Nook: David Hockney and His Pop Art Innovations

One thing I love about art is innovation. As observed through the years, new artists emerged to provide another interesting style on the canvas. I think they make art even more interesting because, well, they put out something new and relevant to current social issues. That’s why when I heard news about a David Hockney art exhibition this year, I want to go to Tate Gallery pronto.

 

Who Is David Hockney?

Well, David Hockney is one of the most influential pop art contributors. Being tagged as an “influential” artist is definitely not something to be gained in a snap. Hockney really came out of his way to present bold and meaningful artworks for how many years. The now 79-year-old British artist has received so many prominent accolades. For one, he gained the Order of Merit and the Order of the Companions of Honour. He is also acknowledged by the members of the exclusive Royal Academy of Arts.

 

Best Works

Interestingly, David Hockney is not just a painter. He is also a photographer, a stage designer, a printmaker and a draughtsman. Yes, he is really a perfect example of an all-around artist.

What makes me even more excited about Hockney’s art exhibition is the inclusion of his works as a student in the early 1960s. The retrospective of how Hockney developed as an artist from those early works is a great opportunity to know him more. Most of Hockney’s memorable works have something to do with portraits, homosexuality, landscapes and sophisticated photo collages.

Paintings of Homosexuality (1961-1963)

“We Two Boys Together Clinging” (1961)

David Hockney is a homosexual. He is a brave artist, painting about his affection for men. Two of his famous works that have something to do with his sexuality are “We Two Boys Together Clinging” and “Domestic Scene, Los Angeles.”

“Domestic Scene, Los Angeles” (1963)

 

Portraits (1968-1976)

“Mr. and Mrs. Clark and Percy” (1971)

Most of David Hockney’s early works are portraits. Hockney loved painting his parents, relatives, friends, lovers and inspirations. He managed to paint fellow artist Mo McDermott, fashion designers Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell, art dealer Nicholas Wilder, curator Henry Geldzahler, and ballet dancer Wayne Sleep.

“Mo McDermott” (1976)

 

“Joiners” (1980s)

“My Mother, Bolton Abbey” (1982)

This is when David Hockney decided to start with photo collages. Hockney called those works “joiners.” He made small patches from photographs to form a unified image. The final result of his joiners is similar to Cubism. Hockney’s first photo collage is inspired by his mother. He continued to do portraits like “Kasmin.” Then, he switched to landscapes like “Pearblossom Highway # 2.”

“Pearblossom Highway # 2” (1986)

 

Vogue Cover (December 1985)

Because of David Hockney’s stylish art, French Vogue magazine used his Celia Birtwell portrait as the cover design. The cover seems like an abstract painting. But, it resembles Birtwell’s face.

“Celia Birtwell” for Vogue (December 1985)

 

“Bigger Trees Near Warter” (2007)

This is considered to be David Hockney’s biggest painting. The artwork measures 15 by 40 feet. Hockney’s Yorkshire home inspired this painting. On 50 separate canvases, Hockney painted specific parts of the big picture. The finished work is a nostalgic image of big trees.

“Bigger Trees Near Warter” (2007)

 

Final Thoughts

Paintings may just be eye-candy for some spectators. But, artists put their heart and soul into their artworks. David Hockney is definitely no exception. His daring, stylish and innovative personality is clearly depicted on his works.