Guggenheim Acquires Work by R. H. Quaytman

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R.H. Quaytman, Selections from Point de Gaze, Chapter 23

The Guggenheim recently acquired selections from R. H. Quaytman’s Point de Gaze, Chapter 23 (2011), on view now in the exhibition Now’s the Time: Recent Acquisitions. The Guggenheim has a long history of collecting and exhibiting Conceptual art, and with this exceptional acquisition, the museum strengthens its holdings in Conceptual painting.

Quaytman, who will discuss her artistic practice in the Conversations with Contemporary Artists series on November 28, works exclusively on wood panels and, since 2001, has organized her paintings into what she calls “chapters.” Each chapter revolves around a site-specific installation and specific formal concept, and Quaytman leverages the relationships between them in order to display how seemingly unrelated elements combine to produce the overall experience of an artwork.

Point de Gaze illustrates this process. Quaytman created the work for an exhibition at Gladstone Gallery in Brussels. Point de Gaze references the site of its first exhibition through portraying Lygia Clark’s small-scale sculpture Estruturas de Caixa de Fosforos (Matchbox Structures, 1964), which is owned by Barbara Gladstone, director of Gladstone Gallery. The institutional history of Quaytman’s gallery is juxtaposed with an exploration of the history of the Beguines, a lay order of women active in the Netherlands in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Beguines wore a distinct headpiece, which Quaytman recreated and photographed on her friends; she then used the photographs to create screenprinted images that were incorporated into the final work. The name “Point de Gaze” derives from a type of needlework invented in Belgium, which again echoes the history of the Beguines: the order relied on lace-making of this sort for income. In this way, the institution that first displayed Point de Gaze is embedded in the work, and is linked to the economic concerns of an order nominally devoted to the sacred. Quaytman’s process itself becomes a meditation on the practices that sustain significant experience—whether aesthetic or religious—and the institutions that enable them.

Curatorial Assistant for Collections Carmen Hermo describes how the display of the work emphasizes this:

If you look closely, you’ll see Quaytman has included a wooden shelf as part of the paintings’ installation, which she took part in prior to the exhibition’s opening. The shelf rests one painting against another, and alludes to the fact that, after acquisition, an artwork typically leads a sheltered, stored-away life. Quaytman cleverly lays bare the often unseen reality of museum acquisitions.

The four paintings from Point de Gaze, Chapter 23, acquired through the International Director’s Council in late 2011, are the first works by Quaytman to enter the Guggenheim Museum’s collection. The works can be exhibited singly as well as in a variety of layered configurations.

R.H. Quaytman, Selections from Point de Gaze, Chapter 23, 2011. Silkscreen ink and gesso on panel, and wood shelf, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Purchased with funds contributed by the International Director’s Council, 2012, © R. H. Quaytman. Photo courtesy Gladstone Gallery