Anderson Ranch hosts annual Art Auction | AspenTimes.com

Anderson Ranch hosts annual Art Auction

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Michael Faas/The Aspen TimesBarbara Bloemink, who took over as executive director of Anderson Ranch Arts Center, oversees her first annual Art Auction at the Ranch on Saturday.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – When Barbara Bloemink told some friends, about seven years ago, that she’d like to be the director of the Anderson Ranch Arts Center, those friends probably didn’t take it very seriously.

Bloemink had spent her career in the museum world, where art is exhibited, not at a place like Anderson Ranch in Snowmass Village, where art is made, and she was perfectly content with her choice. And you didn’t even need to know Bloemink to see that her style, or at least her fashion sense, was not a natural fit for the rustic Ranch.

In fact, Bloemink herself didn’t put much weight behind her utterance. It was just that she was actually on Anderson Ranch’s campus at the time, during the annual Art Auction, the creative and social high point of the organization’s year. The place was abuzz, and Bloemink was intoxicated with the spirit of the event, the location, the Ranch.

“It was just a remark. It wasn’t something I thought through or was committed to,” she said. “I’d been in museums, and thought I’d be in museums the rest of my life. But I was so intrigued by the magical atmosphere here, I thought it would be a great job.”

Bloemink did not play a major role in putting together Anderson Ranch’s 30th annual Art Auction, set for Saturday. That credit largely goes to Paul Collins, director of the painting and printmaking department, who also served for nearly a year as the Ranch’s interim director, following the abrupt resignation of Hunter O’Hanian. But Bloemink still will play a crucial role in the Art Auction; she has indeed become the Ranch’s executive director, a position she began in May. After three months at the job, her initial affections for the Ranch have not faded.

“When you walk through that gate, the flowers, the log cabins, the facilities … . Walking through the studios and seeing everyone doing something they love is pretty exciting and pretty magical,” Bloemink said, sitting in the Ranch’s cafeteria. “The whole atmosphere here is about creativity, making art.”

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The Art Auction, while a major fundraiser for the organization – it has generated upwards of $700,000 in some years – also spotlights the fact that Anderson Ranch is an art-making institution. Many of the works have been made at the Ranch; some have been made specifically for the event; and virtually all of the pieces are by artists with close connections to the Ranch. Among the artists represented in the auction are ceramist Paul Soldner, a longtime Aspenite who was one of the Ranch founders; painter Enrique Martinez Celaya, a frequent instructor at the Ranch; photographer Cindy Sherman, the recipient of the Ranch’s 2009 National Artist Award; and Betty and George Woodman, this year’s recipient of the award. The silent auction is dominated by pieces from artists who work at the Ranch, or have taken workshops there.

Bloemink’s father was an engineer whose job brought the family from Spain to Montreal to Colombia. But her mother and grandmother were both artists, best-known for illustrating children’s books, and a constant in her childhood was art and museums. “I think the reason I’m a good curator is I’ve seen hundreds of thousands more work than other people. That’s where the good, discerning eye comes from,” she said.

It also came from an extensive education. Bloemink majored in art history as a Stanford undergrad, studied European art at the Institute of Fine Art in New York, and got a master’s in American art and a Ph.D. in international contemporary art from Yale. She went on to direct the Hudson River Museum north of New York and the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia, and helped open the Kemper Museum in Kansas City and the Guggenheim Hermitage in Las Vegas. She estimates that she has independently curated some 70 exhibitions.

As Bloemink recently consulted for a handful of museums and wrote for the catalogue for the “Prospect.1” show in New Orleans, she began thinking about her next long-term position. “I prefer being part of something larger than myself, rather than doing something on my own,” she said. “I was looking to be part of something I could help create the mission of.”

Anderson Ranch was a good fit. While charming and vital, and with a deep history, it was suffering from the lack of a director.

“It was in a holding pattern,” said Bloemink, who led several symposia at the Ranch before becoming director. “And financially, bare-bones. It was functioning well, but it had lost some of its reputation for excellence and its visibility.”

Calling herself a “change master,” Bloemink has given herself the task of upgrading the Ranch. She is creating relationships with top-tier artists; an appearance this past week by video artist Bill Viola, she believes, was a start. She wants to put the organization on better financial footing, and hopes to collaborate more extensively with other Aspen arts organizations.

“That’s my job, to regain that reputation and help the Ranch flourish over the next five, six years,” Bloemink said.

That time frame is not arbitrary. The Ranch celebrates is 50th anniversary in 2016, and Bloemink wants it to be “a real celebration.”

Taking the job has also meant some personal changes, as Bloemink tries to fit in with the culture.

“I had to buy jeans and flat shoes, and give away my evening gowns,” she said.

stewart@aspentimes.com