What will become of OSU`s art collections?
Published: Monday, August 14, 2000
Updated: Friday, June 15, 2012 23:06
“If a collection is housed in the College of Engineering, then it’s the dean of the college who would be responsible for those objects,” Haverkamp said.
He added, “Once the policy is adopted, I think one of the first things would be to send something out to all the chairs and deans and say, ‘We’d like you to fill out a form of what you’ve got.’”
“I would think that we’ll have a working draft within a month or so,” Haverkamp said. “It’s mainly a matter of getting the pieces put together.”
Haverkamp said if all goes according to plan, the committee should be ready to go to the Board of Trustees with the policy sometime in the fall.
The need for a comprehensive university art policy became apparent in February when news broke out that an Ohio Union employee had sold a valuable watercolor painting, “Children at the Beach” by native Columbus artist Alice Schille.
The painting, a gift from the class of 1911, was sold to a local art dealer for $50,000. It was valued at $150,000.
The watercolor was bought back by an anonymous “friend” of the university and is now a part of the Wexner Center’s private collection.
At the time, the university had no art policy impeding the sale of art. Ferguson is quoted as saying the university’s “checks and balances for those sale are not good.”
Ferguson said that adopting the Wexner Center’s policy was a “responsible” solution. “What we need to have — which I understand the Wexner Center has — is an acquisition process and a deacquisition process, so that in any deacquisition, you have to go through a series of steps that people have to sign off on, and then it’s OK to sell it or give it away or whatever.”
A book on Schille written by well-known critic of American art, William H. Gerdts, is scheduled to be published next spring. Jim Keny, owner of the Keny Gallery in German Village and Schille expert who helped produce the book, said the value of Schille’s painting is expected to increase significantly after the book’s publication.
Keny wondered if some sort of museum might be a good answer to OSU’s problem of what to do with its art. “It makes sense for a major institution like OSU to have some entity to keep track of artwork so that something like that doesn’t happen again,” Keny said.
“OSU has a very rich artistic tradition. Many artists have studied and taught there, and OSU owns quite a few desirable objects,” Keny said. “It’d be nice to let the public see them.”
Keny said he thought OSU was one of the only Big Ten schools without its own art museum.
If you are thinking that the Wexner Center is the university’s art museum, think again.
The Wexner Center does not consider itself a museum, because it is not a collecting institution. Geldin said, “The Wexner Center is most appropriate as a lab and a space for the creation and presentation of new art.”
According to the history section of the Wexner Center for the Arts Collection Policy, when the center opened in 1989, it replaced the University Gallery of Fine Arts at OSU. “As part of this institutional evolution, the Wexner Center assumed possession and stewardship of the University Gallery’s permanent collection of art works, then consisting of some 3,000 works of art.”
The policy goes on to say that at present, “the collection serves a secondary role in the Center’s programs in the visual, media and performing arts. While it is made available to University students and scholars for study, and occasionally drawn upon for exhibitions at the center or elsewhere, it is largely dormant.”
Which brings us back to those Lichtensteins. Roy Lichtenstein received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts at OSU before he went off to New York to become a pop art sensation. He died in 1997.
The university owns about 10 of his works, most of which are limited edition, signed and numbered lithographic prints and silkscreen prints, said Darnell Lautt, director of Marketing and Communications for the Wexner Center. Lautt said that out of the 10, he thought that there was one original.
According to Lautt, when Gordon Gee was president of OSU, he had several of the Lichtensteins hanging in his office because he was a fan of the artist. After Gee’s departure, they were taken to the Wexner Center, where they are kept in the Center’s museum-grade storage facility.
“It is not practical for someone to walk in off the street and say, ‘I want to see a Lichtenstein,’ but there are provisions for someone doing scholarly research,” Lautt said.
Lautt said it was sometimes hard to strike a “balance of putting it out where it’s viewable and making sure that you are adequately protecting the work too.”
“Rather than being a place that collects and holds art, we are using our energies and resources to support the artists in the creation of new works,” Lautt added.
Haverkamp said one of the goals of the new art policy is to get across “the idea that the whole University is a museum, and without getting into what is housed where, make sure that regardless of where a piece of art or an artifact is housed, the same care and attention is going to be given to maintaining, preserving, using, and ultimately — if you dispose of it — how you dispose of it.”
Both Ferguson and Haverkamp said one of the main disadvantages of a museum is that some students would have a harder time accessing the smaller collections that were housed in their individual colleges.
Referring to the College of Optometry’s collection of celebrity eyewear, Haverkamp said, “The problem is, that for optometry students, it’s good to have those historical objects there where the students can get at them.”
“We’re not just talking about art, we’re talking about a lot of stuff,” Ferguson said, “We’re talking about a huge number of things, some of which you can’t hang on a wall.”