How your intrepid blogger discovers new answers to her puzzles about the Noguchi sculpture … on Dec. 1
Timothy Harleth and Nikki Pisha in the Rose Garden.
On Dec 1, 2020 at 10:00 am, the White House Historical Association host an online two-panel symposium on “The History of Diverse Artists in the White House Collection”.
Between the two sessions is a video of Timothy Harleth and Nikki Pisha in the Rose Garden telling us all about Noguchi’s Floor Frame. [see this video, in full, below].
How artworks can enter the WH Collection:
One of the panelists, Nikki Pisha, Office of the Curator at the White House, tells us:
“Our Collection includes life portraits of Presidents and First Ladies, as well as other individuals that were associated with the White House. We also collect works that portray geographic areas from our country and our cultural heritage, and then works by leading American artists. Aside from the portraits, all of the artworks that come into the Collection are by artists who must be deceased, and then the work must be at least 25 years old from the time that they passed away.
Once a work is selected for possible acquisition, we do a lot of research and evaluation in my office. Then we bring it before the Committee for the Preservation of the White House. This is a presidentially-appointed advisory committee that consists of professionals and scholars. That committee really helps advise on these additions to the Collection.”
Nikki Pisha tells us she acquired the Noguchi sculpture for the White House.
Nikki Pisha: “So when I saw the posting on Sotheby’s website, back in March of this year, it was really without question that this was the piece that we needed to acquire and place in the Rose Garden.”
Listen to her great story of how she makes a mad dash to New York City to pull this off.
The Presentation by Timothy Harleth and Nikki Pisha in the Rose Garden
Timothy Harleth is the current White House Chief Usher (the head of household staff and operations at the White House).
Nikki Pisha is Associate Curator of Fine Arts in the Office of the Curator at the White House.
They do a fine job of presenting the sculpture and its new role in the Rose Garden. And they answer some of my puzzles in the previous post.
However, new puzzles arise:
1: The lighting! The Melania video performance, dated Nov 20, cutting the ribbon, and the Rose Garden show dated Dec 1, giving a whole speech, with violins, has the same warm late-afternoon sunlight. The Harleth-Pisha video is cool midday light.
2: The timing! This video was made public (on Youtube) on December 1 in the panel discussions. The press releases about the sculpture in the Rose Garden went public on November 20.
3: The curatorial text! There is text in the White House Nov 20 briefing press release that puzzled me:
“He viewed Floor Frame as the intersection of a tree and the ground, taking on the qualities of both an implied root system and the canopy of a tree. In order to reconnect viewers to the planet, he envisioned the sculpture placed directly on the ground. The sculpture placement on the terrace in the Rose Garden allows visitors to happen upon it, giving it a found quality. While powerful in its own right, Floor Frame is humble in scale, and compliments the authority of the Oval Office. ”
I hunted for the source of any of this text. When a reporter uses the words “He viewed…. ” you need to be able to back this up.
But surprise! Most of this text, in bits and pieces, is spoken by the two presenters Harleth and Pisha.
So I conclude that the video presentation by Harleth and Pisha happened well before Nov 20.
To repeat myself from part 1 of this story, the decision to add a Noguchi sculpture to the White House Collection is a bold, brave and important decision.
First Ladies at the White House traditionally have been involved in the Art Collection, starting with founder of the Collection in 1961, Jacqueline Kennedy. So let’s assume that Melania Trump has been offered an opportunity, or at least a photo op, to shine as an art patron in her final days as FLOTUS.