Brett Gorvy on Bruce Conner


As part of the Annual Guide to Galleries, Museums and Artists (A.i.A.’s August issue), we preview the 2016-17 season of museum exhibitions worldwide. In addition to offering their own top picks, our editors asked select artists, curators and collectors to identify the shows they are looking forward to. Here, Brett Gorvy talks about Bruce Conner.

“I’m not only a Bruce Conner fan but also a collector of his work; I’m lending about twenty works to the exhibition. I came across Conner in 1999 through his last retrospective, at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. I didn’t know Conner’s work despite my background in art history and the auction business—I was first taken by his photography, then by his intricate drawings, and then by the extraordinary video and film works for which he is probably best known today. He approached film as a collage artist: it looked like a leapfrog backward to early twentieth-century Russian filmmaking, even though he’s celebrated as the godfather of MTV and music videos. This traveling exhibition tries to show the full spectrum of his career: drawings, assemblages, photographs, videos, and films. Every time Conner succeeded in one vein, he pulled away and developed another.

“Conner has relevance for younger artists because he developed his own vision without being swayed by distractions from the marketplace and other artists. Yet, working in San Francisco in the 1950s and ’60s, he also plugged into the Beat scene and later the drug culture. He was into punk early on.

“The premise for the retrospective came out of SFMOMA, but MoMA has a great collection of Conner’s work. MoMA has moved away from the blockbuster mentality, and a lot of its recent shows like the Yoko Ono and Marcel Broodthaers surveys suggest an effort to make multidisciplinary art and Conceptual art available to the public. This exhibition is part of an institutional break with the commercialization of the art world. Conner hated the business aspect of art, and the fact that MoMA is focusing on his work now projects a great message.”

Bruce Conner: It’s All True,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, through Oct. 2, 2016; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Oct. 29, 2016–Jan. 22, 2017; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid, Feb. 21–May 22, 2017.


Brett Gorvy is chairman and international head of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s.