Ann Temkin

  • Ann Temkin

    ELLSWORTH KELLY was absorbed with the challenges and pleasures of looking. Indeed, the act of looking was of paramount importance to him. I believe he felt it to be his like nothing else. A common way of being in his company was watching him observe, through big round glasses that capitalized the activity they enabled. In conversation, he recalled with great pride a bird-watching outing in junior high school: The teacher praised him for his “good eye” when he spotted a far-off blue-winged warbler without the benefit of binoculars. In telling me the story some eighty years later, Kelly segued

  • Summer Reading


    I’ve spent countless hours listening to Bob and Ray, first on the original radio broadcasts, later on cassette tape or CD compilations of their greatest routines. I don’t know of any other comedy as mesmerizing or closer to the spirit of art—that ability to make a whole world out of a few ingredients. I love them extravagantly. Bob and Ray, Keener Than Most Persons by David Pollock (Applause Books) is the first behind-the-scenes study of how the duo generated their material and shaped it into such casual sublimity. I’m cheating a little, as this under-the-radar book came out in


    THE TITLE IS A FALSE LEAD. Academy alludes to a tradition, a school, a set of accepted practices. Yet it is attached to a painting that writes itself out of art school and finds instead a territory unoccupied by official precepts or proscriptions.

    The school, in 1955, was Abstract Expressionism, whose pioneers had by then found fame and whose dominance of the New York art scene was uncontested. Jackson Pollock was still alive and, if a bit undone, still capable of making paintings of profound dignity. Willem de Kooning was the newly heralded leader, and his approach allowed ample room for protégés.

  • Ann Temkin

    ONE OF THE CONTEMPORARY MUSEUM’S SECRETS—not exactly dirty but far from squeaky clean—is the storage dilemma resulting from the exponential growth of its collections. While this is a problem that affects all museums to some extent, of course the challenges facing an institution that actively collects the art of the present are far greater than those confronted by an institution focusing on the art of the past. Though rarely the subject of philosophical debate, storage provides a useful lens through which to examine several of the most pressing issues facing museums today. These range from the

  • Anne d’Harnoncourt

    NOW AND THEN, as a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I found myself speculating about what Anne d’Harnoncourt might have done had she not followed in her father’s footsteps as a museum director. University president? Supreme Court justice? Or US ambassador to the United Nations? For reasons I don’t quite understand, this game intrigued me, as my imagination delivered her diplomacy, eloquence, and erudition to sectors of American life sorely in need of them. Perhaps it was just fun to know well someone who was fully credible as a star in any of these roles.

    What these musings reflect,

  • Ann Temkin on Walter Hopps

    WHEN WALTER HOPPS died this past March at seventy-two, he had been organizing exhibitions for more than half a century. He began while still in school and continued right up through the spring, when he guest-curated a George Herms show at the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Too ill to fly out for the final installation, he did it by telephone from his home in Houston, with photographs and floor plan at hand. Shortly after the opening, Hopps went to Santa Monica for a public dialogue with Herms, delighting a standing-room-only crowd that included many of the Los Angeles artists like Ed Ruscha and

  • Wear and Care: Preserving Judd

    I have to defend what I’ve done; it is urgent and necessary to make my work last in its first condition.

    —Donald Judd, “In defense of my work” (1977)

    THE PEOPLE CLOSE TO DONALD JUDD’S WORK HAVE LONG BEEN AWARE that its apparent sturdiness belies a great vulnerability. In fact, the issue of care and repair constituted an ongoing source of vexation for Judd. In his “Complaints: Part II,” published in 1973, the artist was already fulminating (“in a spirit of cheerful revenge”) against the stupidity of the shippers and museum staff members who handled his art. Moreover, he wrote, “the public is awful