Diversifying the Collections – In Conversation with Amy Gilman of the Chazen Museum of Art

Flanked by two lakes on the spectacular campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Chazen Museum of Art represents one of the most vital educational and cultural pillars in Madison and beyond. Housed in a two-building complex, the institution's collection comprises around 24,000 artworks encompassing various historical, cultural, and geographical contexts. However, despite providing an invaluable, diverse, and rich resource, the Chazen Museum of Art collection continues to grow, guided by the principle of introducing new vectors in building the world narrative.
Enabled by an endowment from the Straus Family Foundation, the Contemporary African Art Initiative surfaced as a long-term project to diversify and broaden the existing collection of the Chazen while simultaneously establishing essential relationships with artists and experts from the continent. The comprehensive project resulted in more than 45 works by 24 artists from 15 countries following in-depth research of contemporary African art. Crowning the five-year-long endeavor, the upcoming exhibition Insistent Presence: Contemporary African Art from the Chazen Collection represents a highly-anticipated crescendo.
Guest curated by Margaret Nagawa, the extensive show, which will be on view at the Chazen Museum of Art in Madison from September 5th until December 23rd, 2023, focuses on the presence of the human figure to address contemporary issues and provoke reflection.
Amy Gilman has been at the helm of the Chazen since 2017. Mapping a trajectory for the institution grounded in practical goals, Gilman established fertile ground for visions to develop, transforming the museum experience. Before stepping into the director role at the Chazen, Gilman applied her skills and talents at the Toledo Museum of Art, serving as the associate curator of modern and contemporary art, associate director, and deputy director.
We discussed the meanings and implications of the upcoming show Insistent Presence: Contemporary African Art from the Chazen Collection with Amy Gilman. In an exclusive Widewalls interview, the director elaborated on the Contemporary African Art Initiative that made the show possible, reflected on the issues raised, highlighted the future roles of a museum, and much more.
August 31, 2023
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