At last: The Indianapolis Museum of Art has a new director and CEO. Maxwell L. Anderson arrived in town last week to take the reins of the city’s newly expanded art museum from interim director Lawrence O’Connor, who shepherded the institution through its building process.
Anderson comes to Indianapolis from New York City, where, from 1998-2003, he served as the Alice Pratt Brown director of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Among other things, Anderson increased the Whitney’s permanent collection, founded an endowed conservation department, added New Media and Architecture as collecting and programming areas, increased attendance by 40 percent and improved annual contributions by $2 million.
Anderson, his wife and children had been in Indianapolis for all of five days when he greeted NUVO. Apart from a dazzlingly dark 17th century Dutch painting he rescued from the museum’s storage vault, the walls of his office were bare.
“I love doing this. I love the conservation, research, the publications, the engagement with people who care about art — that’s all basic to it. But I am also excited about the Art and Nature Park. This isn’t going to be a Storm King, or the Walker Art Center garden. It’s going to be a living proposition.”
“I start on the basic level of recognizing that everybody has busy lives. Some people have real privations in their lives, it’s all they can do to pay the electric bill and the rent. Others live in a material world where things seemingly come to them naturally. All of these people deserve the same thing: They deserve a chance to look up from their daily experience to see the world in a more complex, rich and rewarding way.”
“Artists have always been the antennae of the race, as Ezra Pound put it. And they’ve always had an opportunity to set a conversation in motion about politics, about nature. That can happen here, with 54,000 objects, day in, day out.”
“Our role is to remind people that the world is much larger and richer than the world we live in. I think that living in any city — big or small — you’re in a village. Manhattan is the most provincial place in the world. I define provinciality as the lack of ability to imagine living anywhere else. If you’re a corn farmer who has, for generations, lived on a farm, it’s hard to imagine going to the big city. But the Manhattanite finds it hard to imagine living outside his own five-block radius. So our job is to take the opportunities that artists have given us through great works to allow people to look up and see more than they’re used to facing at home or on the job.”
“If we can make people say, ‘There are five works of art I love at the IMA, that I want to show my friends and family,’ that’s our sense of place.”