Christy MacLear

Text by Kyle Hoepner

Glasshouse-philip-johnson 2

Christy MacLear, for the past five years executive director of the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, will be leaving at the end of November to become the first executive director of the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. Yet her departure coincides with the fruition of Modern Views, a major project she helped initiate to raise funds and awareness for two seminal sites of modern architecture in the United States: the Glass House itself and Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Illinois.New England Home’s Kyle Hoepner met with her briefly to talk about this undoubtedly somewhat poignant conjunction.

Kyle Hoepner: How do you feel about the state of the Glass House, Christy, as you prepare now to move on to the next phase of your professional life?
Christy MacLear: Having come to the Glass House as its first director, built the strategy and staff and prepared the site for opening—now, after five years, we are in great shape. I’m delighted bout my new post. It has so many similar elements, chal- lenges and opportunities. I love the early, conceptual aspects of cultural assets and legacies.

KH: Does the Modern Views project feel like a suitable valedictory with which to close out your tenure in New Canaan?
CM: The vision to be a leader in the broader field of modern preservation—and how that connects art, architecture and design—has been captured perfectly in Modern Views. Being able to see this program come to life will be the culmination of building off a wonderful legacy and handing it over to a new director for its next phase of growth.

KH: Can you give our readers a quick overview of what the Modern Views project is and how it’s going to work?
CM: We’ve invited 100 architects, artists and designers to contribute work and statements about what inspires them about or between the Glass House and the Farnsworth House. We’ve captured this creativity and this dialogue in a book, which will be published by Assouline, and through exhibitions and auctions to be held both in Chicago, near where the Farnsworth House is, and in New York, in proximity to the Glass House. So, Modern Views is really a conversation about these two sites and what makes them relevant in our historic continuum.

KH: I was interested to note that a lot of the art is not just paintings and works on paper by the figures one might typically expect. One of the people involved, for example, is Gary Hildebrand, who’s actually a landscape architect based near Boston. What kinds of things are people like Gary doing for this project?
CM: We wanted to pay homage to the important role that landscape plays at both sites. The Glass House in many ways is about the surrounding landscape, and when you go to the Farnsworth House you realize the importance of its rural surroundings and its placement relative to the river. So it was important to invite landscape architects to be a part of this interpretation of these two sites. There are some classic choices, people who have historically been involved with the Glass House or the Farnsworth, like Stanley Tigerman, Dirk Lohan, Michael Graves, Cesar Pelli . . . the list goes on and on in that network of people. Then there are the young, very vibrant architects like Johnston Marklee out of Los Angles. You have young designers like Maarten Baas, who was named “Designer of the Year,” by DesignMiami—you know, global figures. You have artists who have had a legacy at this site, like Frank Stella, and you have younger designers such as Demian Repucci, who riffed off a Warhol poster to illustrate the combative relationship between Philip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe and their interpretation of the international style. So you really get the veterans and the emerging talent in this project. Also the photographer Lynn Davis, Ed Ruscha, Claes Oldenburg—wonderful, wonderful artists who have interpreted these two sites.

KH: You mentioned that there will be exhibitions in both Chicago and New York, culminating in auctions in both places.
CM: There will be a number of works that will be shown at the Arts Club in Chicago and auctioned on September 16; the same at Sotheby’s in New York on October 6. We have also commissioned Sarah Morris, who is a wonderful internationally known artist, to create a film . . .
KH: I was going to ask about that!
CM: Her films are a visual interpretation of the social history of places, so she’s the perfect artist to interpret this project. The film, Points on a Line, will be premiered at the event in Chicago and then in New York.

KH: And the book from Assouline comes out at roughly the same time, I believe?
CM: We are actually getting the Chicago copies air-shipped, so they will be there before anybody else has had a chance to see them; and then they’ll be in New York. You’ll be able to buy books signed by the participants, which is very exciting. The cover is by Al Taylor, who was a dear friend of Philip Johnson’s longtime life partner Dave Whitney. Taylor’s estate is having a show at the David Zwirner Gallery in the fall, so after all the events we’ll have the book launch at the gallery to celebrate that.

KH: You’ll also be having an online auction. Is that at the same time as the live auctions or is it a separate thing?
CM: We are calling it an online exhibition because people will be able to register a bid through Sotheby’s, but they won’t be able to bid live like they do on eBay or Live Auctioneers, for example. It will go live on September 7, I think. People will be able to see all the work. We hope that they will all be very interested, since the money goes to support our preservation, and they absolutely should buy something!

KH: I’m curious about what kind of work the proceeds from Modern Views will make possible here at the Glass House compound. What are you planning to use the money for?
CM: The proceeds from Modern Views will be dedicated to the preservation of the Brick House. It’s actually the “other half” of the Glass House. It sits at the bottom of a slope, so it has been filling with water for many years, which has created a mold problem. We need to go in and restore the interior, including the Fortuny fabrics, the books, the Pesce chairs—but also the infrastructure, to ensure that the building is preserved in perpetuity. So, our part of the Modern Views funds will be dedicated one hundred percent to that capital project.

KH: Well, Christy, this sounds like quite a positive note on which to take your leave. New Canaan’s loss is the Rauschenberg Foundation’s gain; I’m sure your friends and supporters wish you well in your next endeavor.

Editor’s Note For more information about Modern Views, call (203) 594-9884 or visit philipjohnsonglasshouse.org

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