Ben Whine is the Associate Director at SculptureCenter. Previously, Ben held positions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New Museum of Contemporary Art, and Tate.
How did you first become involved in contemporary art?
I grew up around art. My grandmother was a painter and my mother studied art history, so museum and gallery visits were a part of family life. My mother, who is from Basel, Switzerland, used to be quizzed by her father on every work in the modern galleries at the Kunstmuseum and that became part of my upbringing as well.
In the early 90s when I was still living in London, I read about what would become Tate Modern and I decided to set a goal of working there when it opened. I got my undergraduate degree in art history and a post-graduate degree in museum studies. After a brief detour into youth work, I became Patrons Manager at Tate in 1999 and was part of the team that opened the new museum. I am only slightly superstitious, but several times I have proven to myself that if you put something out into the universe, it can come to pass!
With booths at NADA Miami Beach 2014 and Frieze New York 2015, SculptureCenter has an active presence at art fairs, which is unique considering its nonprofit status. How do art fairs function to promote the mission?
I wouldn’t be the first to say that more and more, the business of the art world takes place at fairs. It’s important to see and be seen and, by holding a booth at a fair, SculptureCenter can reach a lot of people. We’re able to raise funds by selling limited editions and works that have been donated to us by artists and we also get to talk about who we are and what we do.
For NADA Miami Beach this year we will be showcasing two new limited editions by Anthea Hamilton, whose solo show will be up at SculptureCenter at the same time. The booth will be a great way of introducing Anthea’s practice to a wider audience.
Tell us more about SculptureCenter’s upcoming exhibitions with Anthea Hamilton and Gabriel Sierra.
They are both great examples of what SculptureCenter does best. It’s Anthea’s first solo exhibition in the US and Gabriel’s first major solo show in New York. Each is creating new, site-specific work and SculptureCenter’s unique spaces and open approach have allowed them to come up with spectacular projects.
The centerpiece of Anthea’s exhibition, Project for Door, is inspired by a model made by Italian designer Gaetano Pesce in 1972. Comprised of a man’s naked bottom, it was originally intended to be a doorway for a Manhattan skyscraper but the work was never realized. SculptureCenter’s space will be an amazing context for Anthea’s large-scale sculptural reinterpretation of the model, as well as her other work.
Gabriel’s installation will modify and restructure our beloved lower level galleries, confusing distinctions between the architecture, the institution, and the works that comprise the exhibition. I think that seasoned and new visitors alike will be challenged and delighted by the combination of alternative and existing floor plans, signage, and objects in the space.
Do you live with art? If so, by which artists?
It’s interesting that part of my job now is producing and selling benefit editions because they form the bulk of works I have collected. I think it’s the best, most affordable way for an art world worker bee like me to live with art, and it’s nice to have pieces from institutions where I have worked or visited. Since being in New York I have acquired a Rob Pruitt panda from the New Museum and an Anthony Lepore photograph from the Guggenheim.
My partner and I are both into maps and we have a number from places we have visited, but we also have some great artworks based on maps, like Cornelia Parker’s Meteorite Landing on St. Paul’s and Michael Druks’ conceptual self-portrait of the topography of his psyche. Plus a couple of pieces based on maps of the night sky, by William Kentridge and SAM3.
I also have a couple of pieces that remind me of the art I grew up with, including a pen and ink drawing by Scottie Wilson, who was a friend of my grandfather.
What upcoming shows are you most looking forward to this fall?
Anthea Hamilton: Lichen! Libido! Chastity! and Gabriel Sierra: Numbers in a Room at SculptureCenter, of course! Photo-Poetics: An Anthology at the Guggenheim is going to be really good, and I’m also looking forward to their Agnes Martin show. Frank Stella: A Retrospective at the Whitney. Rashid Johnson at the Drawing Center. Rachel Whiteread at Luhring Augustine. Bridget Riley at David Zwirner. And I’ll be excited to see Nari Ward at the Pérez Art Museum while I’m in Miami.