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September 27th, 2005
Museum Names Carlos Basualdo as Curator Of Contemporary Art

Anne d'Harnoncourt, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, announced today the appointment of Carlos Basualdo to the position of Curator of Contemporary Art, effective immediately. Basualdo is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Art and Design at the Universitá IVAV in Venice and was Chief Curator of Exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University, Columbus, from 2000 until 2002 where he organized a lively series of exhibitions and programs. Basualdo has also organized and contributed to many exhibitions around the world over the past decade. He is the curator of Tropicália: Revolution in Brazilian Culture (1967-1972), an interdisciplinary exhibition that will open in October at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and will travel internationally. He served as curator for The Structure of Survival, as part of the 50th Venice Biennial in 2003, and was one of the co-curators of DocumentaXI in Kassel, Germany, in 2002.

The appointment comes at a crucial time for the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, where Carlos Basualdo joins Michael Taylor, the Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern Art, appointed in 2004. As the Museum moves toward a substantial expansion of its gallery space devoted to modern and contemporary art, as set forth in its Master Plan, the new curatorial team will bring their talents and experience to an assessment of the collection's strengths and needs and articulation of goals for future acquisitions, exhibitions, and publications, whether in print or online.

In naming Basualdo to this newly created position, with its special focus on the period spanning from the 1960s to the present, Miss d'Harnoncourt said: "We are thrilled to find a splendid young curatorial scholar to oversee our collections and programs devoted to contemporary art. Carlos is vitally engaged in the art of the present, and brings to Philadelphia both a keen international perspective on developments in contemporary art and a sense of adventure. I look forward with great excitement to the many new opportunities that this appointment will bring."

"We have now established two senior-level curatorships in the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art," added Miss d’Harnoncourt. "Carlos will work side by side with Michael Taylor who oversees our world-class collection of modern art and served as the Philadelphia curator for the acclaimed Salvador Dalí retrospective. With the latest appointment, we emphasize our commitment to sustaining and expanding the Museum's international, national and regional profile in contemporary art."

Carlos Basualdo stated, "I'm deeply honored by this appointment and am enormously looking forward to working with the Museum's exceptional collection and distinguished staff. I cherish the opportunity to work on contemporary art not as a singular activity isolated from any context, but as a vital field conceived as part of a larger picture, and this is the kind of perspective that the Museum encourages. Philadelphia is an exciting city, with a thriving artists community, and I am eager to spend a lot of time in the galleries here and to visit studios."

Fluent in English, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, Carlos Basualdo, 41, is a native of Argentina. He received his degree in literature from the National University of Rosario in 1982, and also participated in the Independent Study Program of the Critical Studies Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1994–1995).

Basualdo was responsible for the exhibition The Use of Images; Photographs, Cinema, and Video in the Jumex Collection, at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MalBA), and the Fundación Telefónica, Buenos Aires, 2004, and edited the catalogue that accompanied it. He also organized the exhibition Hélio Oiticica: Quasi-cinemas, seen first at the Wexner Center for the Arts in 2001 and which traveled to the Kölnischer Kunstverein, in Cologne, Germany, The Whitechapel Gallery, London, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, in 2002. In addition, Basualdo was curator for the exhibition, From Adversity We Live, at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2000), and co-curated The Aesthetics of Dreams (with Octavio Zaya), a section of the broad-ranging exhibition Versions of the South, at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Spain, (2001).

Basualdo has written extensively for scholarly journals and art publications, including ArtForum, ArtNews, The Art Journal, The Art Newspaper, Moscow Art Magazine, Flash Art, NKA, Journal of Contemporary African Art, Atlantica, and Art Nexis.

About the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has a long history of strong and adventurous commitment to modern and contemporary art. At the core of the modern art holdings are the A.E. Gallatin and Louise and Walter Arensberg collections. Both were among the most significant collections of contemporary art formed during the 1920s and 1930s in the United States and together they establish this institution as one of the world's outstanding museums in which to see modern art. The Gallatin and Arensberg gifts also ensured that the Museum's collection would encompass especially rich concentrations of the work of Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Juan Gris, Constantin Brancusi, and Joan Miró.

The Museum's collections of early modern art include indisputable masterpieces such as Picasso's Self-Portrait (1906) and Three Musicians (1921), and Henri Matisse's Mademoiselle Yvonne Landsberg (1914). A serene, chapel-like space contains the breathtaking results of Brancusi's search for essential forms, as seen in The Kiss (1916) and Bird In Space (Yellow Bird) (1923-24), which form part of the largest group of the sculptor's work in any museum outside Paris. The Museum also houses the largest collection of Marcel Duchamp's work in the world, including Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2) (1912), which was given to the Museum by the Arensbergs (who assembled their collection with the assistance of the artist) as well as later additions, acquired by purchase or gifts by the artist's family and other donors. Situated in precisely the spots selected for them by Duchamp are the monumental painting on glass, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass) (1915-23), and Etant donnés (1946-66), the enigmatic installation to which the artist devoted himself during the final decades of his life, and which was given to the Philadelphia Museum of Art shortly after his death.

American modernists admired by Gallatin and the Arensbergs, including the Pennsylvanian Charles Demuth, are also represented in the selection from Alfred Stieglitz's collection that was donated to the Museum by his widow, Georgia O'Keeffe. The Museum's outstanding holdings of modern American paintings include Marsden Hartley's Painting No. 4 (A Black Horse) (1915), Arthur Dove's Silver Tanks and Moon (1930), Charles Sheeler's Cactus (1931), and Georgia O'Keeffe's Red Hills and Bones (1941), among many others. Premiere examples of other important streams in 20th century art are also represented, including the powerful, self-taught vision of Horace Pippin, as conveyed in works such as The End of the War: Starting Home (1930-33) and Mr. Prejudice (1943), and the evocative realism of Andrew Wyeth, as seen in Groundhog Day (1959).

Philadelphia's modern and contemporary holdings represent an unusually close collaboration between artists and collectors. A serious painter as well as collector, Gallatin was a central figure in the American Abstract Artists group in New York, where his collection was on view to the public for 16 years as the "gallery of Living Art" before it was transferred to Philadelphia in 1943. The Gallatin Collection has formed the cornerstone of the Museum's holdings of abstract art, which grew to include several early Abstract Expressionist masterpieces, including Dark Green Painting (1948), by Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock's Male and Female (c. 1942).

The tradition begun by Gallatin and the Arensbergs was followed by the development of the collection of contemporary art since the 1960s. Among the many important gifts and acquisitions over the past four decades are works by Robert Rauschenberg, Agnes Martin, Claes Oldenburg, Barbara Chase Ribaud, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd and Gerhard Richter. A number of major purchases have made a striking impact on the collections and have represented important steps within the American museum community as a whole.

These include Cy Twombly's Fifty Days at Iliam (1978), a sequential and symmetrical ten-part painting cycle illustrating Homer's Iliad, to which the Museum has devoted an entire gallery designed in collaboration with the artist (Gallery 185), and the remarkable painting Catenary (I Call to the Grave), 1998, a richly evocative work by Jasper Johns from a group of paintings, drawings, and prints informally known as the Bridge series, begun in 1997. Catenary is displayed in Gallery 171 where it is presented in the context of four decades of Johns's work, all of which are on loan from the artist.

The Department of Modern and Contemporary Art has a longstanding tradition of presenting major retrospectives, such as Constantin Brancusi (1996), Barnett Newman (2002) and Salvador Dalí (2005). It has organized exhibitions devoted to important artists of this region, including Warren Rohrer (2003) and Sidney Goodman (1996), as well as acquiring of works by such artists as Edna Andrade, Tristan Lowe, Sarah McEneaney, Stuart Netsky, Warren Rohrer, and Peter Rose. The continuity between past and present is richly felt within the Philadelphia Museum of Art's collection and programs. The ongoing series of Museum Studies exhibitions focuses upon projects in collaboration with artists as diverse as Rirkrit Tiravanija, Richard Hamilton and Gabriel Orozco. Initiated in 1993, Museum Studies specifically enlists artists to produce new works in response to the Museum’s building, its history or its collection. The series was inaugurated memorably when Sherrie Levine "re-created" Brancusi's Newborn by casting the Museum's marble sculpture in frosted glass, making six new sculptures that were displayed atop six grand pianos in the Great Stair Hall. The Museum presents a stimulating program of film and video screenings by established and emerging artists who experiment with new media and technology. Philadelphia's historic role as a center of training for artists continues to encourage interaction between the Museum's collections and each new generation of talented students. The Museum's Committee on Modern and Contemporary Art ensures that there are funds to acquire new works by young and emerging artists, many of whom challenge accepted notions about art. This acquisitions program plays a central role in moving the Museum's collection into the future.

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