Where art curators go when they're off the clock

Museums across the US are opening their doors and asking Americans to take a look. But what do museum directors do when they're off the clock? The Monitor asked leading curators which exhibitions have wowed them this summer.

The Northeast

Malcolm Rogers, director Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

The MFA director has an affinity for 18th- and early 19th-century imagemakers, all of whom allow him to "escape into different centuries."

Top of Mr. Rogers's list of things to see is the Jacques-Louis David exhibit, "Empire to Exile," at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass. "In the last 25 years of his career, David was one of the greatest neoclassical artists of his time," he says.

Rogers hopes to visit the National Gallery in London, specifically the current "Stubbs and the Horse" exhibition. "George Stubbs is the world's greatest horse painter," he says "He brings out the beauty of the horse in a remarkable way, expressing all of the force and glamour of these beautiful creatures."

Rogers also plans to see Sir Joshua Reynolds's, "The Creation of Celebrity," at the Tate Britain in London. "What I see influences my taste at the [MFA]," he says. "I enjoy going to see what gives me both emotional and intellectual stimulation."

The Midwest

Ellen W. Lee, senior curator Indianapolis Museum of Art

As the curator of 19th-century French paintings for the 10th-largest museum in the country, Ms. Lee finds it difficult to separate the personal from the professional when it comes to her preference for artwork.

Ms. Lee recently returned from Paris, where she visited a neo-Impressionist show at Musée d'Orsay. The exhibition explored Georges Seurat and his influence into the 20th century.

Paris is never far from Lee's mind, even when touring the US. She plans to attend the Art Institute of Chicago's exhibition "Toulouse-Lautrec and Montmartre," which includes many of Lautrec's works, as well as those of Edgar Degas and Vincent Van Gogh, both who were inspired by his work. Lee also plans to attend the Art Institute's complementary exhibition, "Paris: Photographs from a Time That Was."

"Anyone who appreciates the beauty of Paris would enjoy this show," she says.

The South

Dr. Laura Lindsay, interim director, LSU Museum of Art at the Shaw Center for the Arts, Baton Rouge, La.

The Shaw Center for the Arts recently under went a significant expansion and renovation. As the dust from the construction is swept away, Dr. Lindsay says her plans include a visit to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where "Scenarios and Short Stories by American Master Robert Rauschenberg" is on display.

Lindsay says this exhibition, along with the Roger Ogden exhibition at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art at the University of New Orleans, include many of the qualities of successful shows.

"Walking into a museum, I look for the attention-getting sequence," she says. "It is important how the art is presented, so that all can appreciate it at all levels of intelligence and culture. It must reach out to everyone."

The West

Derrick Cartwright, Maruga Baldwin, director San Diego Museum of Art

Traveling south of the border, Mr. Cartwright recently attended an exhibition at the National Museum of Art in Mexico City. The exhibition, which looked at late 19th-century symbolism, revealed early works by Diego Rivera. "It was a fantastic opportunity to see Rivera at an early stage in his career before he became a social realist later in his 30s," he says.

In San Diego, Cartwright attended the recent unveiling of the Stuart Collection, a series of public sculptures, and he encourages others to do the same. This year the series showcases the chiseling work of Tim Hawkinson, creator of a 40-foot-tall teddy bear made of stone boulders, which looks - in Cartwright's imagination - as if they might topple down upon spectators at any moment. "Exhibitions need to have high scholarly standards," he says. "The idea that an exhibition presents just one idea - the life of an artist or a moment in history - is fine, but the best museums take it farther."

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