David Anfam, who's been involved with the Clyfford Still Museum since it opened, has just been named senior consulting curator. The only scholar given access to the late artist's collection by his widow, Anfam now plans to focus on realizing the museum's goal of having a research center, as well as other scholarly initiatives.
In advance of the opening of the Still's new show, Memory, Myth and Magic, we spoke with Anfam about his experience with Clifford Still's work and his hopes for the museum.
Westword: You have been deeply involved with this collection for a long time, what's it like to be senior curator for this museum?
David Anfam:Frankly, it feels like seventh heaven. And, of course, a great privilege! Oddly enough, it was exactly forty years ago that I saw my first Clyfford Still at Tate Modern, when I went to London to study at the Courtauld Institute of Art. Never did I imagine that four decades on I would be working with the artist's entire estate. Also, the architecture of the museum -- quiet yet studiedly serious -- is such a beautiful complement to the art's power that physically being on site is a joy.
What is the research center that the museum is planning?
The idea is to have a research center that will expand the museum's fundamental scope. Worthy scholars will be able to come here to study Still's art together with his archive. Personally, I've always felt it vital to see art in a broad cultural context -- in relation to literature, poetry, music, film and so on. Since Still's career spanned the better part of the twentieth century, and his intellect was very wide-ranging. The research center will uphold the spirit of his vision.
What other visions for scholarly initiatives do you have?
Conferences, publications, fellowships, perhaps even exhibitions beyond Denver and the U.S.
Can you tell us a little about Memory, Myth and Magic, opening May 24?
One thing that sparked this exhibition was when I discovered Still had done a set of pastels in 1968 titled "Memory." Far from being abstract, they evoke what he saw on the Canadian prairies as a youth. In turn, myth is a kind of collective memory. From the late 1930s onwards, Still's work explored an uncanny universe of spirits and magical forces. I've tried to map some of this exciting territory, showing the links between his early, middle and late periods.
Your relationship with Clyfford Still's collection is really special; how important has your work with this collection been in your life?
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Life-changing -- and, well, enhancing!