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Monday, February 4, 2019

Tony Podesta's gifts to the Katzen


Nira Pereg, Five Calls (Sun Clock), 2015. American University Museum Collection, Gift of Tony Podesta who is above, in the left background/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Lobbyist Tony Podesta wants all his art eventually to be up in museums for the public to see, and we the people applaud opportunities to see it!  Thank you, Mr. Podesta.

For decades he has given his art to D.C. museums, and on January 26 at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Mr. Podesta was the star, surrounded by curators, artists, and a moderator on stage who came with several hundred to recognize the donations and the opening of a new exhibition, The Gifts of Tony Podesta.
Gyan Panchal, qqlos, 2009, American University Museum Collection, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie

It is the first major exhibition of Mr. Podesta's donations to the Katzen which are drawn from the museum's Corcoran Legacy Collection.

Curators Klaus Ottmann, chief curator and deputy director for academic affairs at the Phillips Collection, and Jennifer Sakai, an instructor in the department of photography at George Washington University, talked informally with Mr. Podesta at the event moderated by Jack Rasmussen, the Katzen director.
Let's discuss Katja Strunz' Form & Mal (in 7 parts)/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Katja Strunz, Form & Mal (in 7 parts), 2004. American University Museum Collection, Gift of Tony Podesta/Photo by Patricia Leslie

"I talk with many people about art," Mr. Podesta said at the beginning of the presentation. "It's not a formal process," and he uses no advisor. "I read a lot and travel around the globe looking for art." (He was headed to the art fair at Bologna and then to meet an Australian artist in Copenhagen for an opening.)
 

"I feel like I'm a steward of the works, and the most important thing is for people to see [the art] within a public institution. Every year I give away a lot of things."
Jake and Dinos Chapman, Rape of Creativity, 1999, American University Museum Collection, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection/Photo by Patricia Leslie

When the Corcoran Gallery of Art closed in 2014 and the National Gallery of Art took over its collection, the Gallery curators decided to keep half of Mr. Podesta's gifts to the Corcoran and left it up to him to find museums for the rest.  
He contacted the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Katzen, which enjoys "the lion's share." 


"I thought the [Katzen] would be a good house for them," Mr. Podesta said, and he recruited Dr. Ottmann and Ms. Sakai as curators.
At the opening of Gifts of Tony Podesta, the Katzen Arts Center, American University, January 26, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the opening of Gifts of Tony Podesta, the Katzen Arts Center, American University, January 26, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Ann-Sofi Sidén, Fideicommissum, 2000, American University Museum Collection, Gift of Tony Podesta/Photo by Patricia Leslie


Said Ms. Sakai:  "It was an exuberance of riches to go through." She curated the photographs, and Dr. Ottmann, the sculptures.  

Said Dr. Ottmann: "Tony is one of these very rare collectors, someone who is really not a trophy collector. He's in a private position where he can see so many wonderful works."  

Dr. Ottmann said he had known Mr. Podesta about 20 years: "Tony is an extremely generous donor. He likes to connect people, likes to connect artists. He does dinners at his house. [It's] an ongoing repertoire.
 

"It's a remarkable collection.
 
"Every time I come to Tony's house and I see things on the wall and I don't know what they are, I ask him.

"Museums today would be in a very bad place without Tony and collectors like him." 

From left, Tony Podesta, Klaus Ottman, and Jennifer Sakai at the opening of The Gifts of Tony Podesta, Katzen Arts Center, American Museum Collection, Jan. 26, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
From left, Tony Podesta and Klaus Ottman at the opening of The Gifts of Tony Podesta, Katzen Arts Center, American Museum Collection, Jan. 26, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Brothers John, left, and Tony Podesta at the opening of The Gifts of Tony Podesta, Katzen Arts Center, American Museum Collection, Jan. 26, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie
At the opening of The Gifts of Tony Podesta, Katzen Arts Center, American Museum Collection, Jan. 26, 2019/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Most of the works in the show are by artists Mr. Podesta knows, "some [who] have become my friends," including sculptor Barbara Liotta, who with Ottonella Mocellin were the artists on stage.  Ms. Liotta said she met the collector 20 years ago when she was doing a show in Italy and Mr. Podesta swooped in and bought every piece.
 

"It gave me security," she said, and they kept in touch. "He kept on buying works from me and other Italian artists."
 

When she and her husband visited Mr. Podesta, "we were astounded by all the works. He's not afraid of buying the wrong thing."
 

Installing the sculptures at the Katzen was not always easy, Dr. Ottman said: "It was pretty challenging," and Mr. Rasmussen agreed: "It was a mystery at times." 

Said Mr. Podesta to audience laughter: "I had nothing to do with the installation."

Dr. Ottmann:  "I always try to create interesting dynamics betwen the works of art."  

Answering a question from a member of the audience, Mr. Podesta said he never tires of collecting.
 

It's "mostly Washington museums" he rewards.
 

Asked if he regretted not buying a particular piece, Mr. Podesta said: "There's always the one that got away. In fishing and in art." But nothing he may have missed keeps him awake at night.
 

"Everything will go somewhere." With his collections, he said, "I take everything down and put up fresh." 

Mr. Podesta recognized his brother, John, in the audience noting that the latter once represented a group of artists.

Other works in the exhibition are by Darren Almond,  Jenny Gage, Mads Gamdrup, Anna Gaskell, Margi Geerlinks, Siobhán Hapaska, Mwangi Hutter, Justine Kurland, Jone Kvie, Clare Langan, Malerie Marder, Ernesto Neto, Anneè Olofsson,  Nira Pereg, Patricia Piccinini, Torbjørn Rødland, Jenny Rydhagen, Janaina Tschäpe, Hellen van Meene, and Tom Waldron.

What: The Gifts of Tony Podesta

When: Through March 17, 2019, Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Katzen Arts Center at American University,4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. 20016
 

Admission: No charge
 

Metro station: Tenleytown on the Red Line. From there, take a free AU shuttle bus to the museum.
 

Parking: Free in the Katzen garage after 5 p.m. and on weekends.For more information: 202-885-2787

patricialesli@gmail.com

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