Rena de Sisto embodies the expression, “be the change you seek in the world.” Over the course of recent years, she tired of starting each morning looking at her phone and being presented with only bad news.
As Bank of America’s Global Arts & Culture Executive, she had the platform to do something about that.
Activating longstanding relationships, de Sisto has enlisted 25 of the nation’s leading art institutions to participate in Bank of America’s new “Masterpiece Moment” program with a new video highlighting one masterpiece from of each museum’s collection debuting every other Monday morning throughout 2021.
“If you had something special like an art preview to look at, isn’t that a lovely way to start your day; that is really what I thought,” de Sisto told Forbes.com of her motivation for “Masterpiece Moment,” which launches January 18 featuring Mark Bradford’s monumental 150 Portrait Tone, a searing examination of police violence, from the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Short vignettes hosted by the museum director where each piece is housed will be published every two weeks to a Bank of America “Masterpiece Moment” landing page online as well as YouTube. In addition to brightening days, de Sisto hopes the videos provide viewers a more accessible and easily digestible entry to the nation’s greatest artwork than by simply walking into a museum cold.
Consider each video an introduction, not only to the artwork, but the artist, why the piece was acquired, and to the institution as well, all coming straight from the museum’s director, a figure 99.9% of visitors don’t know, let alone ever have the chance to hear from.
“Masterpiece Moment” offers viewers insider perspectives on the artworks which hopefully spurs greater curiosity, then visitation. After watching, guests walking through the doors will be more equipped with greater knowledge of what they’re looking at to improve their experience.
Museums were given the freedom to select whichever piece from their collection they wished to spotlight.
LACMA’s choice of Bradford’s 150 Portrait Tone (2017) checks numerous boxes.
The painting, measuring roughly 25-feet tall by 10-feet wide, was created by the Los Angeles native specifically for LACMA. It’s among the first artworks visitors see upon entering the museum. Its subject matter, addressing the police murder of Philando Castile, places it firmly in the tradition of art history’s greatest commentaries on state-sponsored violence such as Francisco Goya’s Third of May 1808 or Picasso’s Guernica.
“I was very conscious that it is a work that’s new in art history, but from the reaction that we’ve received from the public and the engagement with that work, it seems pretty clear that it is a masterpiece, a lasting work, so we’re placing a bet on that idea, I think it’s a safe bet going into the future,” Michael Govan, CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director, Los Angeles County Museums of Art (LACMA), told Forbes.com of his institution’s selection of 150 Portrait Tone for the “Masterpiece Moment” program.
Specific artworks chosen by the 24 other participating museums have not yet been revealed. Geographic balance influenced de Sisto’s choice of museums and she says the artworks highlighted will be equally as varied.
In addition to covering the production costs for the videos, participating museums will evenly split $2 million that Bank of America has dedicated to the program as part of a philanthropic grant.
Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bank of America has for decades been one of the nation’s premier corporate sponsors of the arts, supporting more than 2,000 nonprofit cultural organizations each year. In addition to owning one of the world’s largest corporate art collections, Bank of America is one of the biggest exhibition sponsors in the United States. Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project has become an essential resource for conserving art history globally, including in Los Angeles at the Watts Towers.
“There’s a difference between a sponsorship and a partnership,” Govan said of LACMA’s relationship with Bank of America. “There’s so much trust built between Bank of America and its museums having been involved in so many projects over time.”
In addition to the direct financial support, Govan sees other benefits from participating in the project.
“I’m hopeful that this is going to drive people to the significant offerings online, albeit maybe not at this production value, that are now in every museum’s digital storage and accessible,” he said. “When we realized the details of what (the program) was and that it was something we could never do by ourselves–that (Bank of America) was doing something at our museum that we couldn’t afford to do in this year, but that they were connecting us all together–it seemed like the perfect project at the perfect time.”
Bank of America’s ability to network all of these leading institutions around the same program and encourage them to support each other through sharing among their significant online followings should provide for the videos to reach millions of people over the course of 2021 and beyond.
“Also, it’s about the real museum too, and close looking at real objects, it is an invitation,” Govan said. “Somebody said to me, ‘It really does make me want to go back to the museum as soon as it opens’”
Here is the full list of participating institutions in addition to LACMA:
· Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y.
· The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
· The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland
· Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
· Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas
· Denver Art Museum, Denver
· The Detroit Institute of Art, Detroit
· The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, Charlotte, N.C.
· Georgia O’Keefe, Santa Fe, N.M.
· Heard Museum, Phoenix
· High Museum of Art, Atlanta
· Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.
· Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston
· The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
· The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
· National Museum of the American Indian, Washington, D.C.
· The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Mo.
· Pérez Art Museum, Miami
· Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia
· Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, R.I.
· The San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego
· San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
· Seattle Art Museum, Seattle
· The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City