Louis Grachos, the Ernest and Sarah Butler Executive Director of Austin's historic visual arts institution, AMOA-Arthouse, announced today that this century-old museum and art school is being transformed into a new entity, The Contemporary Austin
, with a distinctive vision and mission.
The museum will use the name The Contemporary Austin as of today, July 18, launching not only a new brand but also establishing a reinvigorated exhibition focus. On September 21, 2013, The Contemporary Austin will inaugurate its ambitious new program of commissioning and exhibiting the works of today's leading contemporary artists, installing them in its 9,000-square-foot museum building in the heart of downtown Austin, the Jones Center, and at its twelve-acre lakeside estate, Laguna Gloria.
Darrell Windham, president of the board of trustees of The Contemporary Austin, stated, "It is time for Austin, as one of America's most creative and progressive cities, to have a contemporary art museum to match our robust activity in music, film, and new-media entrepreneurship. The Contemporary Austin will support and encourage the city's own artistic community, while putting artists and visitors from around the world in touch with Austin's renowned energy and eclectic spirit."
Grachos stated, "I am grateful to the board of The Contemporary Austin for seizing this extraordinary opportunity. With our two complementary venues, our indoor and outdoor spaces, and its location in one of America's most exciting cultural scenes, the former AMOA-Arthouse will now rise to national and international stature as The Contemporary Austin."
The former director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, and before that the director of SITE Santa Fe, Louis Grachos came to AMOA-Arthouse as its executive director in January 2013, following an international search conducted by the board of trustees. He has realized his mandate from the board-to re-envision AMOA-Arthouse-by developing the identity and program of The Contemporary Austin.
First Exhibitions Reveal The Contemporary Austin's Vision
The Contemporary's program of commissions and exhibitions begins with presentations of new work by two topical and challenging artists, Liam Gillick and Marianne Vitale, who will have exhibitions on view September 21, 2013 through January 5, 2014. The commissions and exhibitions, to be shown at both the downtown Jones Center and on the grounds of Laguna Gloria, will be Austin's first opportunity to encounter the work of these artists.
"Having Liam Gillick and Marianne Vitale as the two artists for our inaugural exhibitions is a perfect way to illustrate our vision of bringing nationally and internationally recognized art and artists to Austin to create new work," Grachos commented. "Marianne will be creating an exciting, large outdoor project at Laguna Gloria, to contrast with her scalable pieces for the gallery space at the Jones Center. Liam, whose process is both intellectual and participatory, engaging the commissioning institution and the public alike, will use the Jones Center to exhibit his new film, researched and shot in Austin, while his large, site-specific sculpture at Laguna Gloria will not only be a work of art but will serve as a focal point for visitors and a potential setting for programs for our members and the public at large. We expect that our program of site-responsive commissions will prompt important new contributions from all of the artists we bring to Austin and at the same time will engage our community, making The Contemporary a hub of creativity and inspiration."
Artists who will be commissioned by The Contemporary in 2014-15 include Charles Atlas, Tom Friedman, Orly Genger, Charles Long, Tom Sachs, and Do Ho Suh.
Longer-range plans include exploring the creation of a new international contemporary art festival in Austin, inspired by the success of the city's existing festivals (such as SXSW and the Austin Food & Wine Festival) and modeled on other city-wide exhibitions such as Documenta in Kassel and the Münster Sculpture Project. By collaborating with other sites and organizations, The Contemporary also intends to commission works for multiple venues across the city, enabling the institution to function as a museum without walls.
Laguna Gloria and the Jones Center
The program for The Contemporary Austin will unite the functioning of two major venues, Laguna Gloria and the Jones Center.
Built in 1916 by the late Clara Driscoll (renowned throughout Texas for having saved the Alamo from destruction), Laguna Gloria comprises an Italianate villa with gently sloping waterfront access and a sheltered lagoon, set atop a bluff overlooking Lake Austin. The villa is surrounded by five acres of landscaped grounds and natural terraces and seven acres of parkland. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, bears a marker from the Texas Historic Commission and has an entrance framed by gates from the grounds of the original State Capitol. The site is also an official project of Save America's Treasures.
Clara Driscoll donated Laguna Gloria in 1943 to the parent institution of The Contemporary, the Texas Fine Arts Association (established 1911). In 1961, a new entity, the Laguna Gloria Art Museum, split off from the Texas Fine Arts Association and began to operate at the estate. The Art School of the Laguna Gloria Art Museum was built in 1983, and in 1996 the institution changed its name to the Austin Museum of Art (AMOA).
Arthouse, the successor organization to the original Texas Fine Arts Association, moved to downtown Austin in the late 1990s and, in 2010, reopened as the Jones Center, which was created through the renovation of an historic commercial building (once a movie theater and a department store) in the city's center. The Jones Center provides two floors of exhibition space, a film and video gallery, and a 3,000-square-foot roof deck.
In 2011, Austin Museum of Art and Arthouse merged, leading to the creation of The Contemporary Austin and the union of the programs at the two venues.