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For the past 14 years, Heidi Zuckerman has been the Nancy and Bob Magoon CEO and Director of the Aspen Art Museum (AAM), putting the small museum on an international map. In addition to a lineup of must-see shows throughout the year, a primary event for her and the museum is ArtCrush—the museum’s annual fundraiser and auction, attended by art patrons, artists, and collectors from all over the globe.
Recently, Zuckerman announced that in September she is departing from AAM, so we got in touch. Have there been any highlights over the years? What can we expect from this year’s Aspen Award for Art recipient? What’s she looking forward to doing this week? Below, Whitewaller Aspen 2019 answers all that and more.
WHITEWALLER: Tell us a bit about this year’s recipient of the Aspen Award for Art, Lisa Yuskavage.
HEIDI ZUCKERMAN: When we revealed earlier this year that we would be honoring Lisa at the AAM for the fifteenth anniversary of ArtCrush, I said that Lisa’s paintings carry a magical resonance that transcends sheer timeliness. They seem to look backward and forward simultaneously, and to blur distinctions between the fantastical and our expectations of realism or its representation. Lisa’s works have the ability to capture the exotic or the seductive at the moment of over-ripeness, where the beautiful becomes slightly overtaken by elements of decline or where serious collapses into kitsch… almost like a trick of the light.
WW: What can we expect in her “Wilderness” exhibition next year at the museum?
HZ: One of the AAM’s curatorial goals has always been to present aspects of artists’ practices that may have remained overlooked or are somehow absent in the more commonly held viewpoints or discussions of their work. While Lisa has been widely recognized as having challenged ideas of genre painting with regard to her portraits or works that focus on representations of figures, particularly women, she has also done so in relationship to notions of landscape as a site of fantasy or even desire. I think “Wilderness” will allow that aspect to emerge and will hopefully add nuance to the discussion of her practice.
WW: Regularly, you’ve held artist talks up on the deck of the museum during Aspen ArtCrush. What has been a standout moment from one of these talks over the years?
HZ: There are many that stand out… Anytime I get to speak for any extended time to an artist it always seems as if something new comes to light, or the conversation takes us both unexpectedly right where it should go. Some of that is the function of having a discussion that feels intimate but where one is unmistakably in front of an audience. Rashid Johnson pointed to the phenomenon of audience and the act of bearing “witness” to artworks in response to them in his talk last year, and it was an amazing moment of connectivity between a number of things. That comes to mind fairly quickly for me at the moment as his show “The Hikers” is in our galleries right now.
WW: What are you looking forward to most at this year’s ArtCrush?
HZ: What I look forward to every year, which is the confluence of perennial guests I know I will see, as well the chance to meet and talk with those I know are attending Crush for the first time… but my favorite moment, still, after fifteen years, is to present the year’s artist honoree with the Aspen Award for Art. Celebrating an artist and knowing we’re also celebrating in a place with people that value their contributions to culture and community is about as good as it gets.