Hood Director Brian Kennedy steps down

So Provost Carol Folt announced in an email this morning. Mr. Kennedy will begin as the director at the Toledo Museum of Art this fall; read more about it here.

During his tenure at Dartmouth, Mr. Kennedy’s artistic choices tended to disappoint. Surely the most infamous (and likely most expensive) example would be united nations: the green house, Gu Wenda’s strings of hair strewn throughout Baker-Berry Library. While Gu Wenda produced some fine art in the earlier part of his career (that is, before he became famous, and even these better works sometimes seemed derivative of the more talented Xu Bing), his latest work tends toward a seamless dovetail of aesthetic ugliness and intellectual shallowness. In short, Gu creates maximal hype with minimal artistic merit: this is, of course, exactly what he brought to Dartmouth. (A New York Times article about the installation can be found here.) The combination of the elegant Baker Library, already painfully dated Berry Library, and garishly colored strings of human hair hanging throughout could not have been less appealing. Needless to say, I studied in Sanborn.

Other pieces for which we have Mr. Kennedy to thank include Peter Iniq’s Inukshuk, a pile of rocks sitting outside McNutt Hall—a fine way to gloss over Dartmouth’s troubled historic relationship with Native Americans and make anyone who loves great art, or anyone who can see through higher education’s mania for multiculturalism, roll their eyes.

I do, however, appreciate Mr. Kennedy’s acquisition of the Hood’s sole Jackson Pollock painting. In addition, Mr. Kennedy’s exhibitions at the Hood were as a rule coherent and well-done. 2008’s “Ruscha and Pop: Icons of the 1960s” was the finest exploration of Pop Art (not that there’s that much to explore in that movement, but still) that I have yet seen.

I wish Mr. Kennedy all the best in Toledo. I have an unpleasant feeling that his replacement, which Carol Folt said would be announced “shortly”, will be a distinct downgrade. But here’s to hoping Ms. Folt will prove me wrong.