Letter from Ben Mahmoud,MFA, Chicago, Illinois
Professor of Art, Northern Illinois University
July 11, 1986
Too bad about the gallery. Not unsuspected, however. Nevertheless, I am sorry. Wow! $60,000.
Now, I have an idea for you that might satisfy several of your longings.
How about the Chang Museum of Contemporary Art? If you had spent the 60 thous on the purchases of contemporary art you would have been considered on of the heavy hitters in the art world. Moreover, you would have positioned your taste in a manner that would have become influential. You would have had assets for your expenditures, and you would not have been frustrated.
More importantly, you would have established a presence of contemporary art in your part of your world and you would have been the arbiter of it. To do this through a gallery creates, no matter the altruism, a self serving appearance that some how sullies the altruistic aim. The museum would have been seen as a cultural asset, and would have placed you in a position of cultural significance.
A friend of mine in Chicago has done this. The Steven Byer Museum. He bought the old faculty club at Northwestern University and turned it into a museum to house his art and letters collection. Unfortunately, it burned down two years ago. Of course, he collected an immense amount of insurance. Two of my major works were lost, but he had just bought 3 that were at the framers when the fire took place.
You could set your museum up as a nonprofit organization that would, in due time, make it eligible for grants from NEA and the Hawaii Arts Committee or whatever they call it. It could be a recipient of gifts of art works that would make for tax advantages for donors. I am sure your fertile mind can think of many other advantages.
Should you be interested in such an enterprise, I would suggest that you limit yourself to some very thin slice of art (i.e., the purchase of black and white drawings of artists from post-1950, or something like that). In this way, a little money can catapult you into a very well known and respected art world power. After a short spell of collecting, you might interest others with mega-bucks to join you as members of the board of your museum. With their backing, you might mount powerful exhibitions in the genre that you opt. This would, in its turn, attract national attention, and more $. I hope this interests you. And let me hear from you, again, real soon. Enjoy the eternal summer of the islands.
Retrospect 1999- such a advice may have been an influence for establishing Truly Virtual Web Art Museum on the Internet. A virtual collection of a narrow "slice of art" is building with the selected and curated digital art worlds exhibited from around the world. Occasionally I think of the possibility of representing and assisting the artists in the publication of quality print editions, limited to featured works at lastplace.com. I consider the total content of the virtual Web museum to be important culturally and historically for the Internet's art history and online global community. I have a satisfied sense of contributing to world cyber-culture (not just miniscule Hawaii) and eventually hope to financial reward the artists that participated in this pioneering spirited adventure launched early on unto the Net.