Bedford discusses his role at the Rose
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 02:09
Three years ago, if you googled “Brandeis Rose Art Museum,” your search would yield various news outlets reporting and commenting on the lawsuit between the Rose and several benefactors. Due to financial pressure from the economic downturn, the Board of Trustees had voted to sell off artwork in order to fund the museum and preserve its future. But, this measure was highly opposed by the supporters of the Rose, leading to a lawsuit that ultimately settled with the University.
After the last director the Rose, Michael Rush’s contract was not renewed, due to his disagreement on the decision to sell artwork during the financial crisis, the search for another director began. After an extensive search, Chris Bedford was chosen.
Chris Bedford, with his astounding art knowledge, is a well-credentialed candidate for the job, especially following the hard work and dedication so many people have given to the Rose. His impressive curatorial résumé and genuine concern for the future of the Rose will hopefully sustain growth and innovation of the museum.
In an interview with justArts, Bedford, who arrives on campus Sept. 17, described his vision and plans for the Rose.
But let’s go back to the beginning, before he was a well-known curator, before he even studied art. Born in Scotland and raised in the United States and England, Bedford describes his childhood as very “transient.” “I would say that perhaps my experience growing up in different countries aligns nicely with the way that the art world has evolved into an international platform.” If you go into any major museum exhibition, they feature art from around the world. Art transcends geographical barriers and unites the diversity of different cultures.
His interest in art began at a young age: “The seed was sown during the period of time I lived just outside of London and my mother would take me to the National Gallery. I wasn’t a student of art history at that point, but I had an unusually acute interest in painting and my mother was kind enough to indulge that,” he explains.
Later on, Bedford studied art history at Oberlin College, afterwards receiving an M.A. in the same subject from Case Western Reserve University.
Before coming to Brandeis, Bedford worked as the chief curator of exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University. During his tenure there, Bedford curated many exhibits and counts among his professional highlights as having worked with Mark Bradford, who creates huge collages from random materials into works that comment on many political issues, and Pipilotti Rist, a visual artist who works with film and moving images.
The Mark Bradford exhibition toured major cities across the country, from New York City to Dallas, and received excellent reviews from The Columbus Dispatch. Bedford has also received the 2008 Fellows of Contemporary Art Curators’ Award for the exhibition “Superficiality and Superexcrescence,” according to the Wexner Center for the Arts website.
Bedford has also been working on an exhibition at the Wexner for three years, titled “Facture and Fidelity: Painting Between Abstraction and Figuration,” that displays the history of painting. He describes the creation process as incredibly challenging, but as the final pieces fall into place, incredibly gratifying. Bedford will surely need to carry this same level of dedication and personal investment when he curates exhibits for the Rose, something desperately needed to regain the prestige of our museum.
When asked what exactly qualifies him to be the director of the Rose Art Museum, Bedford confidently responds: “I’ve developed a capacity for exhibition-making and alliance building that’s attracted a lot of attention critically and has allowed me to develop deep relationships with foundations and fellow institutions.”
He is also eager to build upon the Rose’s existing reputation as a major player in the world of contemporary art and develop more programming, as well as create a dialogue with other institutions and connect within “the circle of collaborators,” he says.
Bedford did not go into specific detail about his plans for the Rose, but he did emphasize three main objectives: collection development based on the existing strong points of the museum, building up the reputation of the Rose by developing more exhibitions and integrating the collections more fully into the curriculum at Brandeis.
In the short term, Bedford is pushing the creation of a large public sculpture on campus. “I view the right kind of sculpture as a way to bring outside the art of the museum walls and make that experience more easily available and an enticement to come in,” he explains.
A public sculpture is just one aspect of how Bedford hopes the Rose will become more noticeable to the student body, and he encourages the students to use the Rose as a resource, whether it is inside or out of a classroom setting.
With over 8,000 pieces of various forms of art, it is hard to choose a favorite, but Bedford already has a few, though he is sure they will change over time. He is drawn to a “Drawers” a three-dimensional wall piece by Jasper Johns, a visual arts video by Anri Sala entitled “Dammi i Colori” and the Andy Warhol series “Death and Disasters.” All three pieces reflect Bedford’s own interest as well as the Rose’s strength in 1950s and 60s contemporary artwork.
Having an extensive, beyond-value museum of contemporary and modern art is a prominent resource within our Brandeis community, but I believe it is something we often take for granted.
It is easy to acknowledge its presence, but the Rose truly embodies so much of what Brandeis stands for. Even though Bedford has yet to fully submerge himself into our community, he already understands its significance. “Art doesn’t itself change the world around it,” he explains. “But I would say that it exerts a powerful effect on those who view it. And those people are the agents who ultimately make an impact and do change the world around them.”