Short Timer

How does the art market, when it’s in a superheated cycle as it is now, affect the Walker?
It’s huge. The market is accelerating at such a rate that an artist who’s fairly unknown one year is at the top of the heap two years later.

Our mission has to be to stay ahead of the market. Not only is that the only way we can afford to buy things, but it’s also, if you want to talk in business terms, where we can develop product that nobody else has the wherewithal—intellectual or financial or in terms of mission—to do. And we can sell that product, because everybody needs it occasionally. Also, others do vanilla so much better than we do.

So does the Walker influence the art market?
We have been said to be influencing the market, and there’s very little we can do about that. But there’s no doubt about it, with the Arte Povera exhibition we shot ourselves in the foot. We’d been collecting that work rigorously; we can’t afford it anymore. We did all the research for everybody. That’s the way it is. And it was instant.

How do you respond to criticism about the Walker’s addition—particularly charges that it has a confusing layout?
We built it as a kind of little medieval city, where there were plazas, small spaces, big spaces—and we also built it this way because we really believed that this century was about networks as opposed to linear progress. I’m kind of shocked at this criticism because in a funny way the circulation is the most brilliant aspect. It’s really just a big circle, or lozenge. And I wish some people who criticize it would just relax and, if you will, go with the flow. And they’ll find surprises.

Does this go back to what you said about life getting faster? People want to get in, see what they came to see, and get out?
We really wanted to go counter to that. We wanted to slow people down. I think it’s confusing the first time you come. I wonder if it’s confusing the third time you come. Do I think it’s 150 percent successful? Nope. It’s like making a work of art, it was very pushed on some boundaries. But I have no doubt that the ideas that were embedded in this building are going to become ubiquitous … others will do it better. They should.

What have you come to love about the Twin Cities in your time here?
This is a manageable city, but for its size it’s remarkably rich in resources—natural, cultural, educational. My kid went to public schools and got an incredible education and that’s a minor miracle in some places.

I love this city because it made Walker possible. Why isn’t Walker in New York or L.A.? Maybe because the market is less discernible here, and there is a greater civic engagement, and there is somehow, in its own moderate way, greater tolerance for innovation and risk-taking. Minnesotans not only permit, but support this sense of innovation, whether it’s Medtronic or Walker.

Nothing gives me greater pleasure than the farmer’s market. I have loved watching how it has changed in terms of the produce that’s available from different cultures. When I came here it was a much more homogenous place. There is more discussion across ethnic lines and that has made for a healthier place.

What are your pet peeves about this place?
I am quite political, and this is purely personal, it has nothing to do with my professional life—but I worry that we’re a purple state. What happened?

Will you move back to New York?
Probably. It’s hard for a new museum director to have an old director in his or her backyard.

You trained as an artist. If you were to make art again, which medium would you use?
I wouldn’t return to it today. I’ve learned better.

What is your dream job that does not involve art?
For a while I thought it would be really wonderful to run the farmer’s market. Some days I’ve thought it would be fun to give away money, but I’m less interested in that than I thought I was … but this transition time has been extremely useful because I’ve had the liberty of thinking and I came to the conclusion that while I didn’t want to be a museum director anymore, I love art and love being around artists. I love bringing some structure to how people can look at art and find meaning. So I hope to be able to use my talents in those ways.

Any specific ways you might mention?
Nope. There’s nothing to announce.

You’ve called yourself a control freak and are known to work crazy hours. Leisure time?
I’m reading an Amos Oz memoir, rereading Hilton Als’s The Women. I am an obsessive newspaper reader. And I’ve restarted yoga classes. I go to the farmer’s market and I’m cooking a lot and I’m arranging flowers and now I’m a lady of some leisure. But I haven’t started to drink at lunch. Yet.

Pages: 1 2