Gallery Owner Worries Random Violence Could Hinder Art Lending

Mar 11, 2016

While art museums have their own collections, they heavily depend on lenders for exhibits. A gallery owner, who had artwork on loan when a man damaged dozens of pieces at The Wexner Center for the Arts, fears these kinds of incidents will stymie lending. WOSU sat down with two Columbus arts leaders to talk about the future of museum lending.

Lending artwork is second nature for private art collectors, gallery owners and museums. If it weren’t for lending, art enthusiasts would have to travel the world to see pieces.

L.A. Louver gallery owner Peter Goulds said he didn’t think twice about sending four drawings in his collection to The Wexner Center for the After Picasso exhibit, last November. What he did not expect was to receive a phone call that a man had shot up and spray painted more than thirty pieces of art.

“Well naturally it’s a rather rude shock for anyone," Goulds said. "It must’ve been awful for the museum to experience such a thing.”

Goulds’ said thankfully his works, four charcoal drawings by David Hockney, were not damaged.

“They’ve become to be seen as important works. They were lent, for example, for the rather marvelous show David has at the Picasso Museum, in Paris. I think only two living artists have had shows there."

Museums plan exhibits years in advance, and Goulds wonders whether art owners will hesitate to lend in the future...not just to The Wex but to other museums, as well. 

"They will have trouble borrowing things, I’m sure. Not just because of that incident, but in general. The climate is very fragile," he said. 

“This is not the kind of thing that anyone can ever prepare for," The Wexner Cener for the Arts director, Sherri Geldin, recalled about the day when pieces were damaged by a disturbed former worker who later took his own life.

“Shock. Horror. Fear. Concern. You name it. It’s all flashing by in a nanosecond.”

Geldin said the arts center hasn’t experienced any negative repercussions from November’s incident. She said exhibits are going on as scheduled, including a show organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that opened in late January. 

“All of the works came as originally intended and contracted for," she said. 

Geldin said she’s not minimizing Goulds’ concerns, but she does not think  random acts of violence will alter how the art world operates. 

“I think there’s generally a feeling that the nature of the art world is one that can only thrive with the fairly free mobility of works of art," Geldin said. "And I believe that virtually everyone will remain committed to that.”

“It would be a tragedy if we all decided to stay home with our own stuff because things happen in the world," said Nannette Macijunes, Columbus Museum of Art director. 

Macijunes said she doesn’t expect museums to vacillate about lending.

“It’s a very personal decision, particularly when you’re a private collector. But when I talk to private collectors they are very committed, they realize that they are stewarding a work of art during their lifetime, that this is something that they’re caring for in perpetuity for an object that will go on to be taken care of by others," Macijunes said. 

Both the Columbus Museum of Art and The Wexner Center reviewed security plans after November’s incident at The Wex. Both declined to talk specifics.

At The Wex, all backpacks, large purses and totes must remain in the lobby’s coat-check. Guards inspect all purses and bags before people can take them into the galleries.

When asked how everyone is doing at the arts center, Geldin said everyone, including the security officers who were at the arts center the day of the incident, is back to work and doing well.

“There is a kind of additional camaraderie and solidarity that comes of these collectively traumatic experiences," she said.