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High Museum curators would like to sell you on these seven works

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

It’s not exactly a poetry slam or a series of spoken word monologues, but the short videos featuring High Museum of Art curators making their cases for particular works to be added to the institution’s permanent collection are nonetheless creatively done and refreshingly fun to watch.

As seen at www.high.org/collectorsevening (and also on YouTube), the seven curators are hawking particular pieces that will compete against one another for acquisition during the High’s third annual Collectors Evening on Jan. 20.

At the 6:30 p.m. dinner benefit at the W Atlanta Midtown, aimed at adding selections to the Midtown museum’s 12,000-plus-piece permanent collection, the curators heading seven High departments will try to “sell” the audience. Guests will then cast their votes, and the High will buy the four works with the most support.

The cheapest ticket is $500, but the videos are of course free and show a lighter side of the curatorial staff, such as when American art curator Stephanie Heydt, speaking in favor of the High purchasing Norman Lewis’ oil on canvas “Torch,” looks into the camera and concludes, barely suppressing a laugh, “Come on baby, light my fire. Vote for ‘Torch’! Vote American!”

Bespectacled modern and contemporary art curator Michael Rooks is his typical erudite self in detailing “Down Time,” a pop culture-inspired acrylic on canvas by New York artist Brian Donnelly, who goes by the name KAWS. But after making his pitch, Rooks comes back for a postscript, suddenly acting as spent as Jerry Lewis at the end of a epic telethon. The curator threatens to dispatch his assistant, Seth Thompson, who stands nearby with an impassive expression and arms folded threateningly, “to knock on doors … and ask for your vote.”

European art curator David Brenneman starts his video campaign for Constant Troyon’s portrait “A Seated Bassett Hound” on an utterly goofy note. “Sit!” the curator commands the painting. “Good dog!”

Other works up for acquisition at the Jan. 20 event include: an African Mami Wata (pidgin English for “Mother of Water”) figurative sculpture; Marcel Wanders’ “Crochet Chair,” a weight-bearing, stylish seat made from hand-crocheted fiber; Martin Ramirez’s “Untitled (Caballero with Red and Blue Patterns)” folk art drawing; and Hiroshi Sugumoto’s experimental photograph “Lightning Fields.”

There were enough donations at last year’s Collectors Evening to buy all six of the pieces presented, including Vik Muniz’s photograph “Leda and the Swan, After Leonardo da Vinci” (2009) and a 19th century African elephant headdress.

For information or to reserve tickets, contact Ruth Richardson, 404-733-4557.

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