- Matthew Higgs
At Home/Not At Home: Works from the Collection of Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg is more than an exhibition of a private collection; it is an extraordinary portrait of a community of artists, gallerists, and curators who have worked in and around New York City over the past fifteen years. The exhibition and catalogue are the result of an ongoing dialogue between the curator, Matthew Higgs (who directs New York’s alternative space White Columns); the graduate program at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College; and the collectors, Marty and Rebecca Eisenberg.
As part of their first year of studies at CCS Bard, the graduate students are asked to work with a faculty member on a project that features original research on exhibition practices of the past fifty years and culminates in a collectively organized presentation whtihin the museum. In 2008, alongside curators Gianni Jetzer and Trevor Smith, Matthew Higgs led a program that resulted in the student exhibition, Second Thoughts, a project that investigated and ultimately reworked Higg’s own Exhibitionism: An Exhibition of Exhibitions of Works from the Marieluise Hessel Collection at the Hessel Museum of Art. Both Exhibitionism and the subsequent Second Thoughts drew from the extensive collection of Marieluise Hessel, which is housed at CCS Bard and includes artworks from the 1960s until the present day.
At Home/Not At Home builds upon that experience, creating a unique opportunity for the graduate program to engage with a collection that has a very different character, yet is equally incisive and expansive. If comparisons were to be made between Marieluise Hessel and the Eisenbergs, they would certainly highlight the distinct personalities and passions embodied within their respective collecting practices, their commitment to education, and the value they place upon museums and independence of the curator. They have both provided considerable resources, not least the artworks themselves, with the central idea that we are merely guardians of the artworks, whether they are publicly or privately held.
Throughout the research and development of this exhibition, Matthew Higgs has worked with Nova Benway, Michelle Hyun, Nathan Lee, Manuela Moscoso, and Dylan Peet at the graduate program to investigate how private collections have sphere is a central concern as institutions find themselves unable to compete in the art market and a growing number of private collectors build museum-like spaces with collections that, on many occasions, outshine their public counterparts. It is refreshing that the Eisenbergs enthusiastically accepted the invitation to make their collection available to the Center for Curatorial Studies and the Hessel Museum of Art. Marty’s passionate support and interest in the work of our students is exemplary and inspiring. We are deeply grateful for this commitment and profoundly grateful for the collaboration.
In addition to the exhibition and the accompanying catalogue, Marty and Rebecca, alongside Warren and Mitzi Eisenberg, have provided the support for Scottish artist Luke Fowler to be our artist-in-residence for 2010. Commissioned as part of Higg’s yearlong project, Fowler’s residency provides an innovative extension of the At Home/Not At Home exhibition and an opportunity for graduate students to work closely with an artist in the production of a new work.