#46 Art and Power with New Museum Director Lisa PhillipsPublished 13 December 2018
Named “the most powerful woman in the New York art world” by The New York Times, Lisa Phillips has been the director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art since 1999. On today’s show, she talks about the future of the museum—from the current $85m capital campaign to the ways in which Phillips sees the institution moving beyond bricks and mortar—with host Charlotte Burns (executive editor, In Other Words) and Allan Schwartzman (co-founder of AAP and Sotheby’s chairman)—who was a founding staff member at the New Museum, hired as a curator aged 19.
Founded in 1977, the museum recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Phillips and Schwartzman discuss the “spirit of the new” in art, and talk about power—what it means, who has it and how it might better be redefined. Phillips, who was formerly a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, discusses the forces that are shaping museums—such as technology and shifting demographics—and how to respond to them.
Click here for the full transcript
Charlotte Burns: Hello and welcome to In Other Words, where we discuss everything you ever wanted to know about the art world but didn’t know who to ask. I’m your host, Charlotte Burns, and today we’re joined by Lisa Phillips, the Toby Devan Lewis Director of New York’s New Museum, who was named the most powerful woman in the New York art world by the New York Times last year.
“That’s something that we deeply believe in—which is partnerships and collaboration. I think that was part of the founding DNA too, and I think very much, if I dare say, part of a female orientation in consciousness, that willingness and desire to collaborate.” —Lisa Phillips
We’re also joined by Allan Schwartzman—who is now the co-founder of Art Agency, Partners and a chairman of Sotheby’s—and who was a founding staff member of the New Museum, hired at the tender age of 19 as a curator.
“A lot of the most important art existed in video, and not in the sense of film-like production that we see in video today, but in the most utilitarian sense of ‘get a camera and you can record anything, because it doesn’t cost anything’.”—Allan Schwartzman
Before we begin, just a reminder to check out our In Other Words newsletter, which you can subscribe to at artagencypartners.com.
Now, onto the show.
I thought that we’d begin by talking about something that was the founding spirit of the New Museum and is something Allan talks about a lot in the newsletter, which is “the spirit of the new”. I thought I would ask you both how you would define “the spirit of the new”.
director, New Museum
Lisa Phillips is the Toby Devan Lewis Director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, in New York City, succeeding the museum’s founding director, Marcia Tucker, in 1999.
Before joining the New Museum, Phillips worked at the Whitney Museum of American Art for 23 years, where she began as a Helena Rubenstein fellow in the museum’s independent study program before becoming a curator. Phillips organized over 30 exhibitions while at the Whitney.
Allan Schwartzman was a Founder and Principal of AAP. He brought to the company more than 20 years’ experience in advising some of the world’s most influential and sophisticated collectors in forming their holdings of contemporary art, both individually and in conjunction with their stewardship of major museums.
Schwartzman is also widely respected as an independent curator, most notably for Instituto Inhotim, the visionary contemporary art park set within a 5,000-acre botanical garden in Brazil. As creative director and chief curator of Inhotim, he has been central to developing the collection of the renowned institution and commissioning its signature site-specific works by artists including Chris Burden, Giuseppe Penone, Matthew Barney, Doris Salcedo, Doug Aitken, Rivane Neuenschwander, Olafur Eliasson and Rirkrit Tiravanija, including projects that could not have been realized anywhere else.
Known equally as a tastemaker in contemporary art and an authority on the art market, Schwartzman is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, Art Basel and notable events around the world.
Schwartzman was a founding staff member of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City and served as curator from 1977 to 1980. He has written extensively about art for publications including The New Yorker, the New York Times, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, Artforum and Art in America and was a contributing editor of Connoisseur. He served as a board member of Franklin Furnace from 1980 to 2000 and currently serves on the Board of Artists Space, one of New York’s premier alternative spaces, having also served as the board’s president.
executive editor of In Other Words
Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.
Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.
The live record
Behind the scenes: Lisa Phillips, Allan Schwartzman and Charlotte Burns