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An uncaptioned illustration from the TEFAF global art market report, photo by Loraine Bodewes
Nancy Spector at the launch of the Guggenheim UBS Map Global Art Initiative

Artnet News

GUGGENHEIM GOES GLOBAL

by Rachel Corbett

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The Guggenheim Museum is apparently tired of its dusty, Western-centric legacy. At a press conference today, Apr. 12, 2012, the museum announced that it had partnered with the UBS to launch a five-year series of exhibitions, acquisitions and educational programming called the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative.

“We asked ourselves how the Guggenheim, given its history steeped in European modernism, could become more international so that it reflects the multiplicity of cultural practices,” said deputy director and chief curator Nancy Spector.

The result is a plan to bring in three guest curators from three regions that seem underrepresented in the museum’s permanent collection -- South and Southeast Asia, Latin America and North Africa and the Middle East. Each curator, working with museum staff, will acquire new works and then show them in an exhibition at the Guggenheim, followed by two other cities in and around their host region.

To start, early next year the museum is opening its South and Southeast Asia show, which eventually travels on to venues in Hong Kong and Singapore. “The museum’s South and Southeast Asian collection is not large,” said curatorial affairs director Joan Young, adding that it is also tilts toward the contemporary side.

To assemble a more comprehensive collection, the museum has brought on Singapore-based curator June Yap. “The western art world mostly pays attention to China, Korea, East Asia,” she said. “So this seemed like a wonderful opportunity to help make this region more visible.”

Yap, who arrived last week, now faces the unique challenge of not only selecting artworks suitable for the permanent collection, but also works that fit together in a cohesive, thematic exhibition.

“It forces me to think deeper about what these artworks need to do,” Yap said. “It’s not so much about representing a region, but more about representing artistic practices across the board.” Soon she plans to begin traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Asia, visiting fairs, galleries and artists’ studios.

The Guggenheim is not revealing how much its partner, UBS -- perhaps best known in the art world as a major sponsor of Art Basel since 1994 -- has budgeted for the project. Yet Carol Vogel in the New York Times estimated that it could be more than $40 million. In art terms, Yap said she’ll ultimately have about enough work to fill one of the museum’s annex galleries.

Naturally, each exhibition is accompanied by multilingual audio tours and pamphlets, plus plans are in the works for artist talks, panels, symposia and an expanded website dedicated to the initiative. At the end of each exhibition, the museum is hosting a summit for project representatives to reflect on their experiences.

The advisory committees and curators for the second and third phases in Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East have yet to be announced.

RACHEL CORBETT is news editor at Artnet Magazine. She can be reached at Send Email