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Summer 2003
Art Nouveau
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This ability to offer visitors a range of cutting-edge contemporary and historic art “is a fundamental part of what we do,” Philbin says. But it’s the Hammer’s yearning to explore the newer terrain that has excited artists in this country and in Europe. In its own backyard, the Hammer is being credited with giving local artists a prestigious West Coast launch pad for their careers.

As an extension of a major research university, the museum created in Hammer Projects a lab where artists can explore new ideas and techniques. “We like to consider ourselves a research-and-development arm for the arts at UCLA,” Philbin says. “We want that aspect in our programs, as well as the historical perspectives that are inherent in our collections.”

Sometimes it’s a risk. “With some artists, we really don’t know what we will end up with,” Philbin says. “But we have to trust our instincts.” And Elaine, she notes, “has some great instincts.”

Elaine, a Texas-born artist, has his antennae up wherever he roams. From his experience at The Drawing Center he learned that half the battle was simply letting artists know he and Philbin were eagerly seeking new talent. “In New York, the climate for artists can be pretty harsh. So we took the opposite tack. We were accessible. We welcomed people,” he says.

He has taken a similar approach in Los Angeles, plugging into the grapevine, visiting galleries, snagging invites to artists’ studios and attending showings in storefronts, lofts and temporary art spaces.

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