“Manitoba Museum of Finds Art”

Will Brown
3041 24th Street
April 28, 2012–June 2, 2012

View of “Manitoba Museum of Finds Art,” 2012.

It’s a bit incredible: From 1974 to 1978, the Manitoba Museum of Finds Art (MMoFA) held exhibitions, acquired a permanent collection, commissioned artworks, hosted performances and fund-raisers, and maintained a membership program, all just outside the office of then San Francisco Museum of Modern Art director Henry T. Hopkins. Alberta Mayo, who was the executive assistant to Hopkins and Deputy Director Michael McCone, ran the museum from her administrative office in Room 305 in the War Memorial Veterans Building (which was SF MoMA’s first home; exhibitions continued after Mayo moved to the San Francisco Art Institute). The museum’s collection and ephemera are now on view at Will Brown gallery, a new exhibition space operating in the vein of Philadelphia’s Triple Candie, if the venture’s first three projects are any indication.

The museum’s collection is displayed on two shelves on one wall of the gallery, mimicking Mayo’s original installation just behind her desk, with works also hung on the opposite wall. The collection grew organically over the years, mostly through gifts from artists, and is accretive, idiosyncratic, and mnemonic in the way that the pinboard aesthetic of a personal archive is, even one on the cubicle wall. Here, Henry Hopkins’s Rolodexes share space with Stephen Kornhauser’s glass jar of cotton balls used to clean the museum’s Jean Arp sculpture, a pot holder printed with a mushroom cloud, and all manner of moose-themed collectibles (a favorite of Mayo’s). Ephemera for MMoFA exhibitions featuring George Herms, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Sol LeWitt, and many others appear throughout the gallery, which also features an extensive gift shop. One notable event was the Bruce Conner look-alike contest and bake sale, the judges for which, the flyer tells us, have seen Conner many times. Mayo’s intention was to show artists not included in that “other museum.” “I’m not official,” she once said, “I’m unofficial. Unofficially, they let me indulge myself.” Not only does this unofficial endeavor inflect current calls to occupy museums and problematize standard definitions of institutional critique in one fell swoop, but it also demonstrates the importance and affect of alternative archives, particularly when so closely aligned with institutional ones.

— Tara McDowell