Daily Bytes

Chakaia Booker

by Josh Kanter

On Thursday November 4th Brooklyn-based artist Chakaia Booker will be speaking at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. The art talk is presented in conjunction with the annual acquisition dinner of the UMFA’s Young Benefactors on Friday November 5th.

Booker’s “Discarded Memories” was the group’s 5th annual acquisition for the benefit of the Museum. Each year, the YB works together, and with the Museum staff, to make an exciting acquisition. This annual acquisition has been the mainstay of the Young Benefactors group since its founding in 2005.Chakaia Booker's Discarded Memories

The UMFA’s Young Benefactors group was founded to allow a group of individuals interested and committed to the UMFA’s ongoing collection of modern and contemporary art participate in that process in a meaningful way. Despite the group’s formal name, youth is not a requirement of membership – I, unfortunately, am decidedly past middle-age. Rather, “young” is meant to attract those with an interest in fresh and innovative ways of seeing and experiencing the visual world.

In nominating potential artists and works for acquisition, the group uses the knowledge and expertise of the group’s members and the Museum staff to nominate artists and works that maximize the “bang-for-the-buck” (the YBs, through dues, support their own acquisitions for the Museum), while also meeting various artistic requirements. The YBs must recommend artwork that, among other things, will fit well within the Museum’s 18,000+ piece collection (something not fully understood by any of us!) in terms of both content and context. Finally, the group must consider the medium of the work, and the stature of the artist as that relates to the appropriateness of adding that artist to a museum, as opposed to a personal, collection.

When the group was first formed, the Museum lacked a curator dedicated solely to modern and contemporary art – a role now filled by the Museum’s Acting Chief Curator, Jill Dawsey. Thus, while the Museum staff assisted the group’s efforts, it was incumbent on the group to reach these conclusions primarily with the expertise of its members.
Weighing these criteria led to the initial acquisitions of Suling Wang and John O’Connell (2005), Wolf Kahn (2006) and Willie Cole (2007).

By 2008, Jill Dawsey had joined the UMFA as the Museum’s Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. Although the YB acquisition process was modified, the YB membership was no less involved in the acquisition process than in prior years and in 2008, the YBs helped the Museum acquire a wonderful work by Edgar Arceneaux.

Chakaia’s work, “Discarded Memories,” was chosen in 2009 with Jill’s guidance, the positive vote of the Museum’s collections committee and the support of a majority vote of the YBs. In my view, Chakaia and her work embody everything right about the process. The Museum acquired a beautiful work by a mid-career, “museum-worthy” artist who is getting more and more National and International recognition, while adding to the Museum’s growing collection of modern and contemporary sculpture (e.g., check out their recent Carl Andre acquisition). Chakaia, an African-American artist working in Brooklyn, works in an unusual material – used automobile tires – to create fantastical and poetic works of art.

If you’ve never seen her, Chakaia herself is a work of art and she’s a delight to hear speak about her artwork. She’ll be visiting the UMFA on November 4th and joining the YBs for their 2010 annual acquisition dinner on November 5th. Details about her public lecture can be found at: http://umfa.utah.edu/adultprograms. Check out her work at: http://www.chakaiabooker.com/.

The Chakaia Booker art talk is November 4, 2010 at 7 pm in the UMFA Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium. It is free and open to the public.


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