By Mark Bessire
Having a biennial in your repertoire of exhibitions is always exciting and scary for museum people. In our case, three outside jurors make the choices and then we have to realize and manifest the work in our space. Because of all the rules and regulations in museums, it is hard for us to give up control of who chooses the art. For example, on one day we had to let people in the Museum for free, because the installation was so loud it was hard to enjoy your quiet trip to the museum.
On the other hand, outside eyes offer our audiences a fresh look, and the Biennial is about new work and exploration. Having funds for purchase prizes is also a great benefit. One of the most important narratives the PMA tells is the story of role of Maine and Maine artists within the history of American art history.
By purchasing work from the Biennial, we are able to continue to tell the great story about the power of art in the state in Maine and support artists. In terms of collecting, it is also important to remember that all art at one time was contemporary. To build a collection, you must buy one work at a time over time to gain a comprehensive view. Today, museums cannot afford to fill in the collection with Homers and Hartleys. We need to find and purchase art from the next great Maine artist every year.
Image credit: Sean Foley, Menace (detail), 2007. Lent by the artist, courtesy of Whitney Art Works, Portland, Maine.