You are Director of the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, where you have now been for seven years. Can you explain why the Kimbell is such an important museum?
There are three factors that make the museum important internationally. First there is the architecture. The museum building was designed by Louis Kahn and opened in 1972. It is one of the greatest buildings by that architect, and one of the most influential buildings of the 20th Century. I am delighted that since 2013 we have a companion building designed by Renzo Piano.
What is the second reason?
The permanent collection is small, only 350 works, but the constantly high level of quality of the collection is extraordinary. We collect works of art from all periods, except for contemporary art because we leave that to our neighbours at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth built by Tadao Ando. And we don’t collect American art because of our other neighbours at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, which was designed by Philip Johnson.
The third thing that makes the Kimbell so important is the exhibitions that we organise. They are among the best exhibitions in America in my opinion.
Do you have the possibility of buying new works of art?
We are fortunate enough to have been able to make acquisitions over the decades, and that continues to the present day.
What did you buy?
We buy one or two works a year, and since I have been Director we made eight acquisitions. They include for instance Michelangelo’s “The Torment of St Anthony” or Poussin’s “Sacrament of Ordination” or the Jacob van Ruisdael landscape “Edge of a Forest with a Grainfield” from Worcester College, Oxford, one of the most important landscapes that was in the United Kingdom.
What are some of the exhibitions that have taken place during your seven years?
‘Caravaggio and his Followers in Rome’, ‘Bernini: Sculpting in Clay’, ‘Faces of Impressionism: Portraits from the Musée d’Orsay’ in Paris, and our current exhibition ‘Gustave Caillebotte: The Painter’s Eye’ which we organised with the National Gallery in Washington. I also believe the Kimbell is one of the most beautiful museums in the world.
You just won the FIAC (Foundation for Italian Art & Culture) Award 2016 for your great attention to Italian art. How do you feel about it?
I am deeply honoured by the award and humbled when I look at the list of the past honorees. Getting back to the Kimbell, my involvement with Italian art started in my college days. My PhD dissertation was on Titian and since I have been at the Kimbell the Italian exhibitions include ‘Salvator Rosa: Bandits, Wilderness and Magic’, ‘Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome’ and ‘Bernini: Sculpting in Clay’ as I said before, and ‘Titian’s “La Bella”: Woman in a Blue Dress’.
How many visitors do you have a year at the Kimbell?
It depends on the exhibition schedule. We have around 250 – 350,000 visitors.
Which are your iconic paintings?
Caravaggio’s “The Cardsharps”, de La Tour’s “Cheat with the Ace of Clubs”, and a painting that is more and more famous, Michelangelo’s “The Torment of St Anthony”, painted when he was around 13 years old.
How do you consider your job?
I love my job, and being the Director of the Kimbell has always been my dream job because I love Louis Kahn and I love the collection, and the Kimbell has the resources to make an impact and to organise great exhibitions.
How do you find being in Texas?
I love Texas. I love the optimistic candid spirit of the State, and I love the light.
Is it somewhat provincial vis a vis the great American museums of the East Coast for instance?
We have worked often with other large major institutions, and of course we travel very often. From Dallas you can go anywhere very easily. One third of our visitors are coming from outside of Texas and many are foreigners, and constantly we have the going and coming of curators and art dealers. What we do not have like the New York museums do, we don’t have a large tourist population, and the majority of our visitors come from Texas.
Old Masters today are not much in fashion among young people are they?
That is true, but we collect in the museum what we think is for the long term, what will be important for the next hundred years. I believe that currently, when Old Masters are not in vogue, more opportunities are open for a museum to acquire major Old Master paintings with less competition than they might have had in the past. Great Old Master sculptures occasionally come on the market.
What about the new Piano wing of the museum?
The Piano wing is a tremendous change for the better. Now we can have the permanent collection mostly on view and a space for exhibitions that we didn’t have before.
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Kimbell Art Museum
19th January, 2016