A Monitored Engagement:
Paths, Cells and Scrutiny
at Glenstone

Louise Bourgeois: To Unravel a Torment
Glenstone, Potomac, MD
05.05.18 – 01.20.18

I misstep twice during my second visit to Glenstone, a private art museum nestling in the bucolic wooded suburbs of Potomac, Maryland. I am first approached by a guide, dressed in the museum’s iconic, slightly futuristic, grey uniform, while walking along the enormous driveway connecting entrance gate to main gallery. She scales the hill at a slight jog, and I wonder if she has been alerted to my mistake by way of a camera hiding in a surrounding tree. The museum is preparing for a month-long hiatus in anticipation of the final stage of its multimillion-dollar expansion, and the grounds are mostly empty; I can’t imagine an alternative to CCTV that would warrant such a prompt response. ‘You can head in there, you know’, she says, catching her breath and gesturing towards a small path leading up to Jeff Koons’s mammoth Split-Rocker in the distance. I thank her for the effort and the information, explaining that the three white cones obstructing the path had deterred me. ‘Oh, those are just to prevent cars from driving onto the grass. You can head in on foot.’

The guide is friendly, genuinely, but her voice, maybe her posture too, are officious; I don’t feel strongly about seeing Split-Rocker up close, but now I’m not sure I have an option. She stands by the cones, as if she is holding a door open, and waits for me to walk up the path. The view from the lookout reveals the vast acreage of the property, including a cluster of new buildings of pale grey stone and glass, mid-construction. I look at the giant head of Split-Rocker, a hybrid of rocking horse and toy dinosaur covered in thousands of colourful flowers, until the guide seems satisfied. I’m embarrassed that I can’t come up with something to ask her about the work, since the Glenstone guides have been trained to answer questions rather than offer unprompted analysis, but it’s just so big that it doesn’t seem to merit any further discussion. We turn around and walk back along the path, onto the main driveway: she leading and I a dawdling puppy dog several feet behind. I am not sure if I am meant to follow, but she seems to be matching my pace, slowing when I slow so as not to leave me unattended again. A few more visitors come into sight and call her over to ask a question, granting me temporary seclusion once more.

Now, to my left, is another winding path leading down the hill to Richard Serra’s Contour 290, a curving sheet of steel embedded in the hillside. The same white cones separate the grassy path from the driveway. I descend the hill into the vast field.

‘Excuse me. Excuse me!’ Turning around, I find that another guide has appeared, again seemingly out of nowhere. He has paused his tour and looks perturbed, as he extends a third ‘Excuse me’ down the hill in my direction. ‘You can’t go down there, that is closed!’ I manage a flustered apology and make my way back up to the main driveway, the momentary confidence in proper etiquette instilled by the first guide immediately vanquished. I decide it’s safest to stay on paved roads until I make it to the Louise Bourgeois survey exhibition in the main museum pavilion.

Perhaps it is not surprising that on an estate prioritising the ‘seamless integration [of] art, architecture, and landscape’ the sign of a simple white cone has to double up on its wayfinding duties, signifying both come in and stay out.1 Everything on the Glenstone property has been precisely planned and placed, to the extent that an Ellsworth Kelly obelisk overlooking the central pond feels equally like a sculpture and a HVAC ( heating, ventilation and air conditioning ) unit from the future. Accessibility becomes comprised by such an emphasis on design: the nameplates on the uniforms, I notice, are actually blank, metallic surfaces.

I follow the trail to the main patio, mostly empty except for another massive Serra. The private home of the museum’s founders, the billionaire couple Mitchell Rales and Emily Wei Rales, is just across the pond. Maybe it is this sign, a building aesthetically similar to the open museum yet completely inaccessible, that undermines every ‘come in’ with a ‘stay out’. Glenstone is free, and in theory anyone is welcome but, in practice, reserving timed tickets and venturing out to this area, one of the wealthiest in the United States, requires transport, time and, most of all, knowledge of its existence.

Inside the museum, a palm-sized, marble sculpture of a simplified, curving home introduces Louise Bourgeois: To Unravel a Torment. Featuring roughly thirty works by the artist over a fifty-year span, the exhibition brings together sculpture, embroidery, drawing and installation, and Bourgeois’s psychologically charged work feels oddly at home in the sterile building of Glenstone. Even pared down to this manageable grouping of works, it is overwhelming in its breadth, richness and material tactility. The Curved House is an appropriate, digestibly scaled opener, treading the space between tenderness and anxiety that Bourgeois navigates so nimbly in her practice. The small, pink home is precious in its scale, and yet the unnerving bow to its foundation exudes peculiarity. A space that should be grounding and solid has been stretched and deformed.

This uncanny chill sits in many of the works on view, particularly in Bourgeois’s ballpoint-pen drawings of nervous spirals and the Cells, a series of enclosed rooms holding furniture, embroidered textiles, marble limbs and dim lights. In Cell ( Choisy ) a guillotine perches menacingly above a cube fabricated from steel and soiled windows. A miniature, marble building balanced on four legs and sealed inside becomes a lone body, isolated and imprisoned. In another, Cell III, a carved leg emerges from marble and a small figure lifts her torso, in a simultaneously erotic and pained gesture, under the suspended blade of a paper cutter. These dioramas have become emblematic of Bourgeois’s practice, capturing the turbulent psychology of a childhood marred by trauma, death and infidelity, and translating it into a poetic exploration of memory-infused architecture. In the context of the eerily empty galleries of Glenstone, an expansive property where even the most secluded nooks feel surveilled, another layer of unease begins to surface.

Glenstone has come under scrutiny several times since its opening in 2006, most recently from a lawsuit levelled against its foundation for ‘breach of contract and mismanagement’ by the contracting firm currently executing the expansion.2 Like many private foundations – The Menil Collection, The Broad, the Rubell Family Collection – the ethics of Glenstone are murky. By housing the Rales’s collection in a separate building, just a few minutes’ walk from their private residence, the museum receives recognition as a philanthropic exercise, and its collectors receive hefty tax breaks. Because private foundations do not require visitors in order to qualify for these tax exemptions, there is little accountability, as far as the actual benefit to the public is concerned, beyond the recognition extended to it by isolated circles of art lovers.3 Sincere attempts to build substantial education programmes or even promote visitor numbers tend to be rare in these types of spaces; on days when the museum is open, Glenstone welcomes an average of only fifty visitors.4 It should be noted, too, that enormous sums of money are at stake – public tax returns reveal that, as of 2014, the foundation’s total assets exceeded a billion dollars.5

In one of the final works in To Unravel a Torment, an untitled soft sculpture from 2007, three ochre heads are placed nestling together on a geometric pillow. Although their features have been mostly omitted, small gaping mouths animate each face. It seems as if they might exhale or whisper at any moment. Interwoven into Bourgeois’s surreal imagery is an underlying framework of tenderness, a feeling I am missing in this place. It is undeniably present in the gestures of the museum staff maintaining the grounds and collections, but it feels markedly absent from the museum’s namesakes as I walk through the final room of the exhibition.

There are undoubtedly positive aspects of Glenstone that reflect the need for similarly structured institutions: private foundations expand the sheer quantity of art available to the public, especially when the majority of public museum collections remain indefinitely in storage; they offer an alternative institutional structure, in an era when federal funding to the National Endowment for the Arts has been repeatedly threatened by the current administration; and they occasionally fund fellowships and professional development programmes for aspiring museum workers, as in Glenstone’s two-year Emerging Professionals Program. However, the same level of care bestowed on the collections of these foundations should also extend to the public, if private museums are to continue claiming that these institutions are built for the public. As Glenstone prepares for a grand reopening, a greater emphasis on ‘Come in!’ should be at the forefront of its mission.

1. Glenstone’s mission <glenstone.org/about/mission>.
2. Colin Moynihan, ‘Contractor Sues Glenstone Museum Foundation for $24 Million’, New York Times, 6 September 2018.
3. Patricia Cohen, ‘Writing Off the Warhol Next Door’, New York Times,
10 January 2015.
4. Sarah Cascone, ‘A Frick for the 21st Century? Glenstone Is About to Become One of America’s Largest Private Museums’, artnet, 30 November 2017.
5. Internal Revenue Service, 2015, Return of Private Foundation, 990-PF <https: //projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/organizations/205938416>.


2018 年5 月—2020 年1 月

译 / 黄晔丹

在第二次拜访格兰斯通博物馆时,我犯了两次失误。这是一间坐落于马里兰州波托马克城郊一片乡野森林中的私人美术馆。当我走过贯通入口大门与展馆之间的宽阔车道时,最先遇到的是一名导览员,她身穿美术馆标志性的、带有未来感的灰色制服, 从一座小山后冲着我的方向一路小跑而来,我想知道她是否是透过藏在附近树上的摄像头得知我的失误。美术馆目前正处在其耗资数百万美元的扩建工程最后阶段之前为期一个月的空档期,馆内几乎空无一人;我无法想象除了CCTV 摄像头之外还有什么方法可以保证如此及时的回应。“您可以直接从那儿进去,”她一边喘了口气,一边指向通往远处杰夫·昆斯的雕塑作品《分裂的摇篮》的一条小径对我说。我感谢了她所付出的努力与所提供的信息,并向她解释是因为挡在小径正中的那三个白色圆椎体误导了我,令我不敢从那里穿过去。“哦,那些路标只是防止车辆开到草坪上去。您可以靠步行穿进去。”

这名导览员真诚而又友善的声音及肢体语言,的确起到抚慰人心的效果;我一开始并没有对就近欣赏到《分裂的摇篮》有很大期待,但如今我不确定自己还有什么其他选择。她站在白色圆锥体的旁边,就像为我打开一扇门一般,等着我步入那条小径。眺望四周,可以看到整个场馆的体量巨大,包括一片正在兴建中的灰白色石头与玻璃构造的建筑群。我看着《分裂的摇篮》作品中的那个巨大的头颅—一个由摇摆木马和玩具恐龙拼接而成的综合体,表面覆盖着成千上万朵五颜六色的鲜花—直到那名导览员看上去感觉满意为止。我对自己未能向她询问有关这件作品的问题而感到有些尴尬,毕竟格兰斯通博物馆的导览员对于回答观众的提问均受过专业训练,而不会提供他们自发性的分析,但这件作品实在是太大了,以至于任何讨论似乎都是多余的。我们转了一圈后便沿着小径往回走向主干道:导览员在前面带路,而我则像一只被人牵引的小狗那样步步紧跟。我不确定自己是否一定得跟着她,但她看上去像是在配合我的步调,当我慢下来时, 她也会随之放慢自己的脚步,以便让我不再会变得无人看顾。这时,一些其他访客进入了我的视线,他们把导览员叫去询问与作 品相关的问题,这让我再次享受到片刻的独处时光。

眼下出现在我左边的,是另一条通往山脚下的曲折小径,那里展示着一件嵌在山坡上的弯曲钢片,正是里查·塞拉的雕塑作品《轮廓曲线之290 号》。草坪与车道用同样的白色圆锥体分隔开来。我走下山坡,步入广阔的平原。

“不好意思,不好意思!”我转过头,发现眼前出现了另一名导览员,也跟先前的那位一样,不知是从哪儿冒出来的。他暂停了手头的导览工作,冲着我这边下山而来,当他说第三遍“不好意思”时,脸上写满了担忧。“您不能去那里,那边已经不开放了!”我慌忙地向他道歉,然后又费了一番周折才重新回到主干道上,经上一名导览员的引导而一时建立起来对于循规蹈矩的自信瞬时消散无踪。我决定最安全的办法就是呆在柏油马路上, 直到我成功找到位于美术馆主展馆的路易丝·布尔乔亚的展览概述为止。

对于一个以“做到艺术、建筑和景致的无缝链接”为优先的场所而言,一个简单的白色圆锥体坐标必须担当起双倍的道路指示任务,以便同时满足来访者与离去者的不同需求,这一点或许不足为奇。1 格兰斯通博物馆的每一件物品都经过精心的设计与安排,以至于一座由埃尔斯沃斯·凯利创作的、俯瞰整个中央池塘的方尖碑感觉上就跟一个雕塑作品或来自未来的空气调节系统一模一样。人性化的考量被设计为上的理念所取代,正如我发现导览员制服上的金属铭牌上其实是空白无字的。


在美术馆内,一件手掌大小的大理石雕像以极简风格雕刻出“家”的形象,开启了路易丝·布尔乔亚的回顾展“理清痛苦之源”。本次展览展出了艺术家在超过五十年间所创作的大约三十件雕塑、刺绣、绘画与装置作品。上述那件备受心理学界争论的作品在格兰斯通博物馆这栋素净而又了无生气的建筑里却显得丝毫没有违和感。而即使降低了作品组合的可控性,《理清痛苦之源》仍以其主题的广度、展品的丰富度以及材料的质感给观众带来难以抗拒的感官体验。《弯曲的房子》大小适当、易于理解,作为本次展览开场第一件展品,给整个展场空间带来一种布尔乔亚在创作中运用自如、介乎温和与热切之间的情感温度。作品所体现的这栋小小的粉色房子比例精确,但那令人不安的弯曲程度却充分显露了其奇怪的特点: 原本应该坚实地扎根于大地之上的建筑 被刻意地拉伸、变形。

这股异乎寻常的、令人害怕的寒意从展出的许多其他作品中皆可体会到,尤其是布尔乔亚用圆珠笔所描绘的、使人感到神经紧张的“螺旋”系列以及“房间”系列—这组作品描绘了拥有家具、绣花纺织品、由大理石制成的肢体和昏暗灯光的封闭房间。在作品《房间(舒瓦西)》中,一座断头台气势汹汹地凌驾于一个由钢材及弄脏了的窗户组成的立方体之上;一个用大理石制成的微型建筑稳固地安放于拥有四条腿的凳子上,与世隔绝地囚禁在立方体笼内,成为一个独立而又孤独的个体。而在另一件作品《第三号房间》中,一条用大理石雕刻出来的大腿,呈现出一种兼具色情与痛苦意味的姿势, 上方则悬挂着一把裁纸刀。这些立体透视模型已然成为布尔乔亚的艺术象征,刻画了艺术家本人动荡不安的心理特征,将其被创伤、死亡及不忠所摧毁的童年以一种诗意的手法转化成充满回忆的建筑作品。置身于格兰斯通博物馆那空寂得令人感到恐惧的展厅里,在这片空阔的地域中,哪怕是最偏僻的角落都被监控镜头所覆盖,另一层不安之感开始涌上心头。

格兰斯通博物馆自2006 年对外开放以来已遭受数次审查, 最近一次则是该基金会因“违背合约且管理不善”而被当前负责博物馆扩建工程的承包商提出诉讼。2 就像诸如梅尼尔收藏博物馆、布洛德博物馆及卢贝尔家族珍藏馆等许多私人基金会一样, 格兰斯通博物馆并没有明晰的行为准则及道德规范。通过将雷尔斯家族的众多藏品安置于一栋独立建筑物中,步行数分钟即可抵达雷尔斯夫妇的私宅,这间博物馆可以被认作为面向社会公众的一次具有慈善意义的努力尝试,而收藏家则享有可观的税收减免额度。由于私人基金会并不一定需要有访客才有资格申请税收减免,因此其不必负责为狭隘的艺术圈以外的普罗大众带去实质的益处。3 这类艺术机构鲜少为提供大量的公教活动甚或提升访客人数付出诚恳的努力;自开馆以来,格兰斯通博物馆平均每天的访客人数仅为50 人4。还值得注意的是有大笔资金危在旦夕— 公共纳税申报表显示,自2014 年起该基金会的资产总值已超过10 亿美元。5

在本次展览“理清痛苦之源”的最后几件展品中,一件创作于2007 年的无题软雕塑作品展现了三个赭石色头颅并排放置于一个几何形状的枕头上。尽管绝大多数的面部特征均被省略了, 但微微张开的小嘴仍使每张面孔都变得生动起来。它们看上去似乎随时都可能吐气或低语。与布尔乔亚的超现实主义意象交织在一起的是一层亲切柔和的感情基调,而在这个地方我却感觉不到。不可否认的是,从维护美术馆场地及藏品的工作人员的姿态中的确可以感受到这一点,但当我从展览的最后一个展厅中走出来时, 我却未能从美术馆中陈列的那些同名作品中明显体会到那种柔和


1. 格兰斯通博物馆的使命:https: //www.glenstone.org/about/ mission/
2. 科林·莫尼汉著,《承包商向格兰斯通博物馆索赔2400 万美元》, 《纽约时报》,2018 年9 月6 日。
3. 帕特利夏·科恩著,《为隔壁的那个沃霍尔避税》,《纽约时报》, 2015 年1 月10 日。
4. 莎拉·卡斯科内著,《变身二十一世纪的弗里克收藏馆?格兰斯通即将成为美国最大的私人博物馆》,artnet 艺术网新闻专栏,2017 年11 月30 日。
5. 美国国家税务局,《2015 年度私人基金会之格兰斯通基金会收益报告》, 参见网址:http: //projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/ organizations/205938416