ML - Michigan Avenue

2014 - Issue 1 - Winter

Michigan Avenue - Niche Media - Michigan Avenue magazine is a luxury lifestyle magazine centered around Chicago’s finest people, events, fashion, health & beauty, fine dining & more!

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Page 69 of 123

VISIONARY "I would like us to work on enabling artists to test out ideas." —SOLVEIG ØVSTEBØ CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: continued from page 66 Just because I think she is amazingly good and I wanted to see a bigger institutional exhibition with her. It's her first major solo presentation in the States. She was not somebody I had worked with before—which of course would have been an easy choice for my first show, to pick somebody who would be secure and safe and who I knew would work with me, but I didn't. She is a very special artist and combines different positions, such as process-oriented art and performance art, with formal, very concise sculptures. She's going to be amazing in the space—it's an exhibition of completely new works. You're the first new executive director at The Renaissance Society in nearly 40 years. How does knowing that affect your approach? Many people have asked me, "How do you dare to take over? How do you have the courage?" Of course if you compare me to [former director] Susanne Ghez, then yes, it becomes intimidating, but honestly, I'm focusing more on the exhibitions and the artists. That's where my courage comes from: that it's not about me or any institutional leader; it's about the art that is shown here. Are there any ways that you think the Ren can improve? The institution has an amazing foundation based on the work that Susanne and the staff have done, so to change for change's sake is not my goal. But I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't try to optimize what already is here. The Ren has always focused on close dialogue with artists and presentation of new exhibitions, and I would like to strengthen that dialogue. We're not a large institution, so it allows us to be a platform where artists can experiment with new ideas, and I would like us to work on that—enabling artists to test out ideas. Chicago has so many outstanding cultural institutions; how do you think the Ren fits in? Chicago has a very strong museum scene, with the Art Institute and the MCA. The Ren is not a museum in the sense that it's not a collecting museum, which gives us flexibility. I would like us to take advantage of that; we're able to move fast and we can relate to art production in a different way. We are also 68 William J. O'Brien's installation at The Renaissance Society in 2011; Katharina Grosse's "Atoms Inside Balloons," 2007; and a new work by Nora Schultz. at the University of Chicago, and the intellectual framework around this institution gives us the ability to work with artists and go more in depth. I think that's where we can play a role that is different. We don't necessarily do retrospective exhibitions; we're able to present where these working artists are exactly right now. How does the Ren compare to the Bergen Kunsthall, where you worked before coming to Chicago? In a sense, the two institutions are quite similar in their structure. The Ren has a kind of Kunsthall model—being not a collecting museum, instead focusing on contemporary art exhibitions, and also production. Kunsthall was a larger institution and had more of a public role in the city, whereas the Ren has a very specific role in the city—an important role. Are there particular places in Chicago that you find inspiring? I walk past the Robie House every day, and I love the whole epoch and the design of it. It's a beautiful house. And I really like Hyde Park in general; I love that it's close to the lake. I look forward to having time to go to museums and see more of what the city has to offer. Where do you see the Ren in five years? I hope the Ren continues to have a strong voice on the contemporary institutional landscape. Ultimately, I want this organization to provide the best possible physical and intellectual framework for artists to work within. New work by Nora Schultz is on display January 12–February 23 at the Renaissance Society, 5811 S. Ellis Ave., 773-702-8670; MA MICHIGANAVEMAG.COM 066-068_MA_SC_ThoughtLeader_Winter_14.indd 68 1/10/14 2:18 PM

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