Portland Art Museum

Another 19th Century plaster cast of a classic, this version of the Choiseul-Gouffier Apollo is a replica of a Roman copy of a lost, probably bronze, Greek original.

This sculpture (right) lives at the Portland Art Museum’s annex, the Mark Building.

The name is even misleading. Kouroi, or statues of naked male youth, were often called “apollos” as if all were images of the god. Choiseul-Gouffier is not the artist, but the French scholar Marie-Gabriel-Florent-Auguste de Choiseul-Gouffier, ambassador to Greece and member of the L’Académie Française. Choiseul-Gouffier brought the marble sculpture from the Sublime Porte, and it’s home is now the British Museum (see image at the lower right).

Contemporary scholars call the sculpture and it’s many versions the Omphalos Apollo, a nickname taken from the navel stone which was found near the Greek original.

The left hand probably held a small bow, and the right either a bough of laurel or a quiver. At the bottom, a version at the Musei Capitolini in Rome, has had ambiguous hands added by it’s Roman craftsman. The full body from a side view forms a slight “S” shape; it’s head tilts away and down, regal and disengaged. The weight is on the left heel, the body is in motion, walking toward the viewer. The nakedness is shameless, elegant, and cold.

When the casts originally came to Portland their nakedness was described as immodest. I think it shows the power of the images to immediately ascribe them with a human character trait. The founders of the Museum decided for the general public the sculptures be dressed in tunics to cover their nakedness. Perhaps more revealing late evening tours were arranged for the burgeoning intelligencia.

Like the Doryphorus described below, this sculpture is stunning. Even with the seams and bolt holes left from a crude casting, the imperious genius of the Hellene artist and his god cuts through the centuries. A teaching tool to leverage a provincial cultural community, this item is still regularly visited and sketched.

Consider the billions of digital photographs littering the internet, taken from every angle, both old and new, together create an entire virtual world of replica images. We take them for granted, and use them to teach ourselves about the state of the world. We don’t doubt the reality of one because it always sits within a context of a billion similar images, all false. As Magritte says, “this is not a pipe.” No, it’s a painting of a dream of a pipe, and so this cast versions of artwork are also a dream of a dream, a bright focused light in the shadows of a pre-historical world.


Several stories to tell about the Portland Art Museum’s casts of Roman statues, which are replicas of early and lost Greek works, including this Doryphorus by Polykleitos (click the picture to enlarge).

Importantly and foremost, these casts were and are teaching tools; replicas yes, but fair representations from a time when travel was difficult and Naples was a far distant civilization. I don’t know why the museum bought a version without arms. Casts or replicas of important artworks was often the only way a provincial community could acquire a grand artwork, and an essential step in developing a curious arts community.

More about the 1890s cast collection at the Portland Art Museum web site.

This plaster cast of something like the Doryphorus of Polykleitos is still breathtaking in it’s simplicity and perfect 6-1 form. The Doryphorus is also called The Spear Carrier (see below, a excellent cast at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow). The original this cast was taken from is at the Naples National Archaeological Museum.

According to a card describing the remaining collection in the ground floor hallways of the Mark Building (free and open daily, excellent for evading Springtime cloudbursts), “A group of 100 casts were acquired in 1893-94 by Winslow B Ayer, with funds donated by Henry W Corbett, both museum founders. As the museum acquired more original artworks, the importance of the casts to the museum’s program dwindled. The majority were eventually loaned to to local universities as educational resources for art students.”

Ayers was a lumber and railroad man. Mrs. Ayers went with him to Europe to buy the casts. The funds were $10,000, or $100 apiece. Corbett was in hardware and wholesale merchandising and later became a federal senator. Their actions, leveraging culture at an early moment in Portland’s development, now result in this city not being Spokane or Toledo or Buffalo – their small investment paid high dividends for their ancestors, those who appreciate Portland’s public art.

In 1893-94 Portland still hung a scraping tool for dung at all doorways. These were forward thinking men who carefully planned a cultural attraction for their adopted city.

Cool – this could be a statewide treasure hunt! There are only a handful left on display with the PAM so the remainder, which haven’t been swiped, should still be on display. If you find one of these spooking your college library, post a note below.

An important, growing, and spectacularly weird art-business story is an estimated 60% of all art sold now comes from Chinese city of Dafen, as described recently by James Fallows. Examples such as this excellent marble replica of Doryphorus at Museum Replicas – just $5,400 – show why first the Romans and now the Chinese rule the world (see image at right).

Why doesn’t the Portland Art Museum put it’s directors on PAM.org? PAM is the only large art org in Portland to NOT put board members on their site; they are trophies hidden away. Why? Perhaps because the club is uniformly white, rich, & connected? Nah, more likely, they said NO.

(Note, somewhat different than other boards, PAM embraces nepotism; make a major pledge, get your wife on board.)

Ah heck I’ll do it. And I’ll add where some of their money goes. And if you have a copy of PAM’s bylaws, send it to me. I’ll post that too.

Peter Bechen – PacTrust, ESCO. Both Ds and Rs, now leaning to Ds.
Mario Bisio – Mario’s. Anne & Mario support local Catholic HS students.
Gwyneth Gamble Booth – PGE Foundation
Marty Brantley, Chairman – Scanlan Kemper Bard. Republican.
Richard Louis Brown – arts administrator, retired.
Mary Beth Burpee – wife of Roger Burpee, investments.
Kristin Collins – wife of Truman Collins. Gives to the GOPers.
Anne Crumpacker – wife of Jim Crumpacker, CBRE , & a Republican.
Ann Payne Edlen – wife of Mark Edlen. They like Gordon Smith.
Fred Fields – Coe Manufacturing, retired. Republicans.
Mary Clark Frisbee – wife of Don Frisbee, PacifiCorp, retired. Democrats.
Janet Geary, Secretary – Wife of Richard Geary, Kiewit Pacific. Republicans.
Peter Hall – Lumber Products
Roger Hinshaw – Bank of America
Judi Hofer – May Corporation
Eric Hoffman – Hoffman Industries. Republican.
Karen Holce – wife of Tom Holce.
Tom Holce – Holce Investments. Local Ds and Rs.
Alan Johnson – Wells Fargo.
Fred Jubitz – Jubitz Truck Stop. Republican.
Gail Jubitz – wife of Fred Jubitz. Republican.
Julie Jungers – wife of Frank Jungers, ARAMCO retired. Republicans.
John Kemp – Columbia Investments, retired. Ds and Rs and GOP PACs.
Ted Kulongoski – Oregon Governor. Democrat.
Helena Lankton – Ferguson Wellman Capital. Republican.
Joanne Lilley – Mrs. Ted Lilley, Stimson Lumber. Republican.
David Margulis – Margulis Jewelers. Oregon Humane Society.
Mary K Mark – wife of Pete Mark. Republican.
Pete Mark – Melvin Mark Properties. Republican.
Duane McDougallCascade Corporation
Sarah Miller Meigs – The Lumber Room. Democrat.
Deborah Novack – wife of Ken Novack, Schnitzer Steel
Marilyn Pamplin – wife of Bob Pamplin.
Robert Pamplin – Pamplin Corporation. Republican.
Eric Parsons – Standard Insurance & PDC.
Pat Ritz – Stafford Villa Properties & Oregon Title Insurance, retired
Richard Rubenstein – Thompson / Rubinstein Investments. Democrats.
James Rudd – Ferguson Wellman Capital. Republican. Mostly.
Harold Schnitzer – Harsch Investments. Mostly Dems.
Eric Smidt – Harbor Freight Tools. Gives to Dems and lives in Beverly Hills.
Patricia Smith – William Smith Properties
Gordon Sondland – Aspen Investments. Republican.
Steve Spence, Treasurer – Spence Partners, UBS
Albert Starr, MD – Starr-Wood Cardiac Group
Andree Stevens – Republican.
Troy St. John – Fidelity National Title.
Julie Stott – wife of Peter Stott. Republican.
Peter Stott – Scanlan Kemper Bard. Republican.
Ann Swindells – Mrs. Bill Swindells, retired from Willamette Industries. Republicans.
Ken Thrasher – Compli
Lawrence Viehl – Columbia Funds. GOP PACs.
Helen Jo Whitsell – Copeland Lumber Yards.
Jim Winkler – Winkler Development. Gives to both Ds & Rs.

At Large Members of the Executive Committee

Fred Stickel – Oregonian.
Nani Warren – Mrs. Bob Warren, late of Cascade Company.
Ernest Swigert – Founded Hyster Company.

RACC Public Art Manager Kristin Calhoun will give a lecture about current public art projects in Portland at the Portland Art Museum.

The lecture is May 14, at 9:30 AM (how convenient!) There is a charge for non-members.

Calhoun was responsible for the process which slected a controversial public artwork for Portland’s downtown Chinatown, which was partially installed in December, and then partially “deaccessed” in February after local businesses and media curmudgeons complained about the artwork for a variety of reasons.

The artwork remains partially uninstalled with four (I think) final granite components parts still missing.

Someone needs to stand up and ask Calhoun when an accounting of what went wrong and why will happen, and when a financial accounting of the fouled project will be made available. In February, RACC director Eloise Damrosch, said, “At this point, we’re not ready to delve into who did what wrong and why. But we’ll look into it because we’d be irresponsible not to.”

So far – silence. When, Kristine? When, Eloise? Until then, skepticism.

READ MORE @ RACC Needs to Right a Wrong

A guess, but probably 98% of blogs poop out after six months. Three categories of successful blogs: 1. The blogger is paid by an outside source, 2. The blogger deducts time spent from taxes (the business model of the moment!), 3. Determined and / or pathological amateurs.

(A pro secret – Google ads with arts-oriented keywords pay a very low rate – about $.01 per 500 hits. Very generous for an advertiser to pay more than double this rate.)

Tyler Green rules the art blog world with Modern Art Notes, a subset of Arts Journal, where he catalogs both the happening and the historical from an insider sensibility.

That Ain’t Art – Four Seattlite artists post their findings from the web with brief commentary.

RACC’s Jeff Hawthorne has Culture Shock, a mix of personal and professional with good pics and recent applause for Henk Pander’s recent fellowship award and comments on the Chinese dragon controversy.

As per usual, Eva Lake is morphing into something new, and shows it in Eva Lake, a branch (I think) of the LoveLake site. Eva is a artist, artist-watcher, curator, and not shy with opinions rooted in skepticism and experience. Eva blogs in the original sense of the tool, a personal journal written for the world to see.

NEWSgrist – where spin is art – tracks the intersection of art and pop political culture; always readable and often provocative. New York-centric; long blogroll of peers.

The Anonymous Militant Art Bitch can probably source actual numbers, but the majority of lauded gallery reviews still go to men; from the legalization of the pill to Bikini Kill we held the revolution and women progressed – but not to equality. This site also wins an award for huge numbers of comments without always succumbing to analogies to Nazis, defying Godwin’s Law.

T J Norris used the crippled Oregon Live blog tool for a while, but has converted to T J Norris | Blog, a very nice format for showing his work and commenting on local events and shows.

ArtDaily.org has something like a blog but more of an aggregator (a site of sites – like Boing Boing for pop culture or Hypemedia for mp3 culture, but combines press release material from museum openings worldwide with great photo galleries.

The Intrepid Art Collector perhaps started as a book promotion, but has advanced to announcements and trend-spotting: well written and professional within the constraints of Blogger. I have the book around here somewhere and will read it eventually.

More proudly provincial than even this blog, PORT is a mix of opinions, but dominated by Jeff Jahn. The editorial is mostly about Portland gallery shows, but seems aimed at acquiring advertising and not differentiating. Who’s the audience?

In the mid-1990s, The Oregonian made a terrible business decision (or Advance Publications did – hard to sort that one out) to build an enormous and complex telephone system whereby you could call and listen to someone read movie reviews or Steve Duin. A boring business bust, they hung on tenaciously for a decade too long. Their swagger is maintained with Oregon Live Blogs, a hodge-podge of squibs and duds, some updated regularly, some randomly, some not at all. Within this context Visual Arts writer D K Row has launched his blog, now with comments. It could be good, but will it be read?

Abi Spring curates A-Blog, a portion of her artist site, with comments about arts-goings-on and her current work. She has a good eye – example, post on Christine Wallers & Steve Peters.

Is clothing design art? If so, UltraPDX does a good job mixing some Portland stylists with international trends. They keep up a good pace and the style-on-the-street photos are good.

Is architecture art? If so, Brian Libby’s thoughtful and researched Portland Architecture gives another sort of tour of the town. For a city so purposefully platted, never bombed or burned, never broke or seriously corrupt, Brian shows an inventory of interesting buildings, spaces and conversation about the museum we live inside of.

A blog / news site way out of town which all should be watching is from the blog from the Your Gallery section of Saatchi site. Jpegs can defeat time and space and the persecution of yokels. It can be done.

Other current non-art favs

  • Mary’s Great Ideas – shares the brainstorms, inventions and adventures.
  • Librarian Avengers – cool trick from smart girls.
  • Cat Eyes – A Cat Woman’s Photos – A life devoted to saving feral cats. When we respect not the smallest of lives, we throw our salvation to the wind. Those who pass the suffering or cause it and learn to look away with ease seal the fate of their souls and of our future. The writing is intense, complex, personal and excellent. Every post is a short story.
  • Smack my forehead! About once a year I become unwary and forget how awful traveling exhibits are presented at the Portland Art Museum.

    During a recent visit I counted over three hundred people packed shoulder to shoulder shuffling through the – at best mediocre – exhibit of Egyptian artifacts and artwork.

    The creaky floor, the poor air circulation, the lousy lighting, and the insipid audio track combined for dread and Fire Marshal / public health concern for personal safety. It’s just pure avarice to slam so many humans through an exhibit.

    At one point there was a traffic jam of wheelchairs!

    Here’s a million dollar idea. Why oh why in this age of easy podcasting is there only one audio tour to listen to at the PAM? Someone should make it their business to create excellent tours, of the Portland Art Museum or the Oregon Historical Society, or of other geographical places – why leave it to the ponderous professionals!?!

    Long brutal review of the Portland Art Museum’s newish Mark Building by California curator Marshall Astor on his blog Double Sided Double Density skewers the building as “80% rental hall and fundraising space and 10% multi-story, crammed art hallway.”

    The additional 10%, I assume, is the Crumpacker Library, and the exquisite penthouse offices the Buchanans built for themselves prior to fleeing before the fiscal year-end report revealed massive construction cost overruns on the front page of the local paper.

    Ahh the unpleasant truth – told by outsiders – is the new building, the product of a decade of fundraising – is a castle dedicated, not to art, but to raising even more money. The tipping point formula – more time spent preparing for fun than having fun. Now you’re boring – the greatest curse of the arts.

    It’s an essential activity, while enjoying the insular virtues of this provincial village, regardless of your trade, to correspond with the outside world – to read, to talk, to listen, to consider opinions outside of local comfortable, familiar voices.

    See Dear Portland Museum of Art, Your design sucketh. Sincerely, Marshall Astor

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