Museums are often works in progress, shedding old spaces for new, altering the focus of their exhibitions and public programming. But few local institutions have experienced more profound changes in such a short time than the venerable Frye Art Museum. Having already been reborn both physically and curatorially after an extensive remodeling and expansion program in 1997, the Frye again sharply changed course with the hiring of Chief Curator Robin Held in 2004. The current exhibition, Swallow Harder, Selections from the Ben and Aileen Krohn Collection, highlights both the pleasures and perils of the new dispensation. KUOW art critic Gary Faigin has just returned from a visit, and he joins us with his thoughts.
When the Frye reopened under new management eight years ago, it was with an exhibition of the paintings of the Norwegian artist Odd Nerdrum: dramatic, oddball fantasies of a post-nuclear world where retro-primitive tribes battled for supremacy, a stylistic melding of Rembrandt and Bladerunner. Such an exhibit would have been unthinkable in the old Frye which rarely, if ever, featured art that was edgy or topical, let alone represented on the international art scene.