Indianapolis Museum of Art, Lisa Freiman

“We’re starting to create a scene and a kind of excitement in the community so that people want to go to different shows and openings.” — Lisa Freiman

When the Indianapolis Museum of Art opened its new Contemporary Art Galleries at a gala happening last November, it seemed that both the museum and the city itself had finally reached a significant milestone. Indianapolis was now officially open for the works of living artists from around the world.

At the center of this newfound action was Lisa Freiman, the IMA’s curator of contemporary art. The new galleries — 5,000 square feet of exhibition space — are a reflection of Freiman’s vision. She oversaw virtually every aspect of the project, from the relocating of outlet boxes and alarms, to the preservation of some of the museum’s spectacular third floor views. Oh, and she also determined the selection and placement of the art found there. “I wanted to show that the IMA is taking its commitment to contemporary art seriously. When you take an object seriously, you have to show it in its very best light. I wanted to let the great pieces shine.

“Everything is done for a reason,” Freiman says. That reason might be summed up as serving to provide museum visitors with a truly engaging experience. “I want to put the museum on the map for having an interesting permanent collection that’s worth seeing for its unexpected and compelling choices.”

But Freiman has also worked to balance the permanent collection and an active acquisitions program with an on-going series of temporary exhibitions. “The temporary program gives us a chance to experiment with different types of artwork.”

Freiman’s is an inclusive vision, a vision that has simultaneously embraced the global nature of the contemporary art scene while also recognizing the importance of local practitioners. Upon discovering the work of Bloomington video artist Arthur Liu at the J. Martin Gallery, Freiman acquired it for the museum’s permanent collection. “I don’t like showing Indiana artists separately from the other artists in the collection,” Freiman says. “The IMA is the premier visual arts organization in the state and the artists who are shown here should be at the top of their game, whether local, national or international. It should be competitive and it should be ambitious.”

As she speaks, Freiman is preparing to visit an opening downtown at the iMOCA gallery. “We’re starting,” she says, “to create a scene and a kind of excitement in the community so that people want to go to different shows and openings. It gives artists a reason to stay here and to push themselves. I think it’s a really interesting time to be in Indianapolis.”

— David Hoppe

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