Although the words exact didn’t escape his lips during his meeting with the press, Maxwell Anderson, who ascended to the job as new director of the Dallas Museum of Art early last month, doesn’t seem to think a show like the Gaultier exhibit is the direction an institution like the DMA should head in.
Museums shouldn’t be “entertainment centers that have an attached research center,” he said. “Creativity is more important that counting bodies through the door. As much as I love to see crowds, that is a for-profit goal, not a museum goal.”
Such a statement might read as fightin’-words in the consumerist heaven of Big D. But Anderson — who until last year ran the respected Indianapolis Museum of Art and has career history that includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art in his native New York City (although he has ties to Texas: His wife’s family lives in Houston) — projects something else: Not contempt for success, not a prissy elitism, but a desire to turn the DMA into a premiere national institution.
The timing is fortuitous. Anderson admires the Arts District and the DMA’s role as one of its anchors. “The Arts Distruct was [a step] in building this necklace of [art venues],” he said.
And he’s focused on spending his first 100 days (he’s got about 60 left) meeting with community leaders (and the press) to develop priorities. But he’s not the kind who seems to want to cater to the lowest common denominator … nor turn the museum into an acquisition machine. (Running a premiere museum “is not acquisitions alone — it’s a paradigm shift,” he said.) He has already declared “green, ethical, edicational” goals as chief among his interests for the DMA. And that includes taking advantage of the DMA’s already sizeable collection that is not on display.
That’s another one of his first-100-day goals. And it’s a good one. Most of Anderson’s goals seem to be. Though we still would like to see shows like Gaultier come back. Just a thought.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.