Photo:Tom Strattman for The New York Times:
R. Craig Miller, curator for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, with lounge chair by Poul Kjaerholm.
A Curator Who Even Considers the Office Chair
By By FRED A. BERNSTEIN Published: March 12, 2008.
ART museums that pride themselves on being encyclopedic have a new historical period to cover: the 20th century. But collecting the art of the recent past takes lots of money. With contemporary pieces going for tens of millions of dollars, most museums are â€œpriced out of that market,â€ said Maxwell Anderson, director of the Indianapolis Museum of Art.
Mr. Anderson said, however, that he had found a less expensive way to â€œtell the story of 20th-century creativityâ€: by collecting â€œdesign,â€ a category that includes everything from furniture to computers, glassware to textiles. â€œIâ€™ve never accepted the artificial line between art and design,â€ said Mr. Anderson, who was the director of the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2002, when it showed â€œThe Quilts of Geeâ€™s Bend.â€
So, one of the first things Mr. Anderson did when he took the Indianapolis job in 2006 was to contact R. Craig Miller, whom he calls â€œthe dean of design curators.â€
As a curator of American decorative arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1980s, Mr. Miller was responsible for installing the living room of a Frank Lloyd Wright house in the museumâ€™s American Wing. In 1990, he left the Met for the Denver Art Museum, where he spent 17 years creating one of the worldâ€™s largest collections of 20th-century design, more than 11,000 objects. When Mr. Anderson called him, Mr. Miller was organizing a show for Denver on post-1985 European design, and Mr. Anderson wanted to see if he could take it to Indianapolis. The conversation between the two men â€” who have known each other since they were students in the â€™70s â€” led Mr. Anderson to offer Mr. Miller a job at the Indianapolis museum.