It’s never happened before, and may never happen again: Two leading figures in the art world, Anne Pasternak, director of the Brooklyn Museum, and Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, have come together to curate a show together for the first time.
The exhibition—part of a guest curator series at Beth Rudin DeWoody’s Bunker Artspace in West Palm Beach—goes on view just in time for the beginning of the blue-chip season, and for the influx of influential crowds who descend on South Florida for Art Basel Miami Beach.
Chosen from DeWoody’s trove, the show will open December 3, and will feature around 50 works representing the best in contemporary art. The setting certainly lends appeal: The Bunker’s 20,000-square-foot stately Art Deco building, now five years into its new life as one of the country’s top private museums.
The upcoming show reflects the longtime personal relationship between the two art-world powerhouses. “Thelma and I go way back,” says Pasternak, noting that Golden actually hired her at Creative Time, the groundbreaking public art organization she ran for more than two decades. Around the time of Golden’s famous—and, at the time, controversial—1994 show Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art, organized when she was a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Golden was also on the board of Creative Time. She called Pasternak and told her she was the right person to run the organization, a gig that arguably made Pasternak’s career.
That personal connection allowed them a free and easy back-and-forth as they assembled the Bunker show. “From the beginning, Thelma and I were on the same page that we wanted to tell the story of how Beth has been passionate about seeing every show and visiting studios just about everywhere she went,” says Pasternak.
She adds, “Our goal was to show some of the artists she ‘discovered’ early in their careers, or at least before others, and especially those artists whose work she has supported throughout the span of their career.” Both made some exceptions for artists they personally have had long ties with.
Once they agreed to work together, Golden and Pasternak enlisted help from the talented in-house curators at the Bunker, Maynard Monrow and Laura Dvorkin, who sent them an inventory of people who fit their stated approach. Both Golden and Pasternak are fully engaged with the pointed political trends that are a major strain in contemporary art—as is DeWoody—but both are also nimble critics of the aesthetic choices that can make or break an artist’s vision.
And the show wouldn’t cohere if the source material was not of the highest quality. “Beth is one of the most eclectic and ecumenical collectors I know,” Golden says. “The collection is broad, but it’s also deep. She has such a brilliantly democratic eye. She engages so fully in deep looking and engaging with artists.”
The duo talked to PALMER about three works that they each chose for the show, and why they matter; get a preview of the exhibition above, and read the full story in PALMER Vol. 2, available now.