Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Museum of Glass Gets Serious about Collecting

At Tacoma, Washington's "The Museum of Glass" there has been something happening for the last year that we at Nourot think is a great idea: adding works by the contemporary glass masters in America.

Director Tim Close of The Museum of Glass is one year into an ambitious 10-year plan to build up it's fledgling collection, focused on modern glass.

Why is built into the museum’s very mission statement says director Close: to tell the story of glass. This, of course, is what MOG has been doing for its first five years without a collection: hosting Hot Shop artists, mounting traveling shows and occasionally commissioning works. But the museum intends to dig deep into the story of 20th- and 21st-century glass art, and to do that, says Close, it needs a permanent collection.

“Collecting is the DNA of a museum,” Close said. “You come to museums for wonderment, enlightenment.”

While the nearby Tacoma Art Museum will limit it's acquisitions to art that focuses on the Northwest, the Museum of Glass in Tacoma will probably try and cast a wider net to include many of the "end of the century" pioneers of the art glass movement.

It’s an interesting statement that implies that, whatever MOG has been doing until this point, it’s only going to fully achieve museum hood with a collection says the Olympian in a recent article. It's a given that most significant art museums in this country have some sort of permanent collection. In fact, that’s how some museums begin, as a venue to house a big private collection.

The Museum of Glass has held off until now to build its collection, citing changes of direction (from contemporary art to pure glass) and management. In fact, it’s starting early: The Tacoma Art Museum didn’t begin collecting until 1963. That was 30-odd years after it began operations.

Most succinctly, the simple fact is that art costs, and building a museum-standard collection takes either committed donors or a lot of money.

“Eighty percent of museum acquisitions come from donors,” Close said. Stephanie Stebich, Tacoma Art Museum's director agrees with him. Private collectors decide to give to museums, either donating or gifting a work, for many reasons: taxes, prestige, passion for art, civic-mindedness. Both TAM and MOG are currently exhibiting shows taken from their collections; in each, the majority of works display the name of a donor.

Which is why we exhort those of you who have collected important works by the glass pioneers of the last 45 years to donate them while there is a chance they will be preserved and shown in a setting that will leave a legacy for you and your family.

This idea may have merit at MOG, however, TAM’s board has decided to move from being the “passive recipient of the community’s collective generosity to an active leadership role.” In other words, it’s going to decide what it wants to collect.
For more information of MOG policies please start by calling Mr. Tim Close, Director at 1-866-4MUSEUM.

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