Neil Rector is an old friend who followed a different path from most of us. Years ago, he made the decision to focus on collecting art. It’s fair to say that he is an avid collector, and an extremely capable one as well. Since he first dipped his toe into the world of collecting, he’s assembled six discrete collections of different types of art from different periods and places — and his collections have curators clamoring for pieces as they assemble new shows.
Two of Neil’s collections are of Soviet-era photography and Russian unofficial art, and parts of those collections — but only parts — have been assembled in a stupendous show at the Columbus Museum of Art called Red Horizon. It’s clearly one of the best exhibitions at the CMA in years, and today Kish and I were part of a group that got to walk through the exhibition with Neil to hear his personal reflections on the pieces, which was very interesting. The show itself is fascinating, giving the visitor a peek behind the Iron Curtain at art, and thoughts and perspectives, that were forbidden during the Soviet regime but nevertheless were realized — because the artistic impulse simply can’t be totally quashed, no matter how repressive a government might be.
I can’t begin to capture what Neil described this morning, so I can only urge you to visit this powerhouse exhibition and enjoy it. And you can also reflect on what being a savvy collector might mean. In Neil’s case it means having that terrific hammer-and-sickle riff on a Soviet style Venus de Milo, below, hanging in your dining room, and also having yourself memorialized in that collection of portraits of Soviet and ancient Roman tyrants, above. That’s Neil in the lower right, in his best Soviet-style guise. He was added to the piece, he explained, because artists view collectors and patrons as tyrants, too.
Go see Red Horizon. It’s at the CMA through September 24.
So how is the new space? To my untrained eye, it’s well done, with high ceilings, good lighting and lots of room to place and position the outsized pieces that modern artists often produce. During our visit, the new space was hosting work by Paul Feeley — whose sculpture Karnak, located outside the new addition, is pictured above — and a very interesting exhibition about the Pace Gallery in Columbus, Eva Glimcher, the art lover who was its motivating force, and some of the artwork that the gallery featured. The space itself was well-suited to both of the shows, and looks like it has the flexibility and size to handle just about anything.
The CMA still has a ways to go — some of the attempts to get people to interact with the artwork, by voting on favorite pieces or leaving post-its with their thoughts on what an abstract piece might represent, don’t really work in my view — but the new addition is a huge step in the right direction. When we were there, there was a pretty good crowd strolling through the galleries. If the CMA can use this new addition to join the Wexner Center, CCAD and the galleries around town in increasing the artistic footprint in Columbus, it will have been worth every penny.
This weekend is the 50th Columbus Arts Festival. The Festival is being held in the Discovery District neighborhood of downtown Columbus, adjacent to the Columbus College of Art & Design, the Columbus Museum of Art, and Columbus State Community College. The area is just a few blocks down Gay Street from my office. So, when I finished up with work a little after noon today, I walked down to have a look.
It was a brilliantly sunny day, and there was a large crowd. The Festival is set up in a rectangular pattern around a two-block area, providing good foot traffic flow and making it easy to see all of the artist tents as well as the music and poetry stages, the food and drink areas, and the “hands on” activities that are being offered. There was a wide variety of art on display and for sale — ranging from different styles of paintings, to some very interesting sculptures, to jewelry, to some distinctive kinds of folk art — and visitors were interested and, in some cases, buying.
Everyone seemed to be having a good time. The only unpleasantness came when an officious woman who was manning a tent that sold painted ceramics came out and objected to my taking a picture, saying it could impair the value of the artist’s intellectual property. (Sorry about that, lady! Next time post a “No Photos” sign, and I promise I’ll avoid your “intellectual property” like the plague!)
The Arts Festival runs until 10 p.m. tonight, and from 11:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. tomorrow. If you haven’t made a visit, it is well worth your time. Just be careful with those cameras!