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Changing of the Garde

Three new aces take the reins at Santa Fe's contemporary art institutions

August 18, 2010, 1:00 am

Name Irene Hofmann

Gig Phillips director and chief curator of SITE Santa Fe as of October 2010
Age 40
Place of Birth New York
Education Washington University in St. Louis; School of the Art Institute of Chicago, masters in modern art criticism
Celebrity look-alike Bettie Page
Personal Question Are you ready for Santa Fe? “Just recently, I’ve wrapped my head around the idea that this is really happening. At this point, I actually can’t wait to get to Santa Fe and jump in.”

SFR: How is the art scene in Santa Fe really perceived from the outside?
IH: I’m not really sure but, as someone who hopes to make an impact within the community, I am actually more interested in finding out how the art scene is perceived in Santa Fe.
Snob Factor: pajama party

Choose one of the following to be a guest at a party you throw: President Barack Obama, Lady Gaga or advertising magnate/art collector Charles Saatchi.
Definitely Barack Obama, but I would hope that we would discuss Lady Gaga at some point. You know, she has more fans on Facebook than he does!
Fiesta Footwear: wedges, easy walking but calf-defining

Multiple choice: Your new job is A. something you would have killed to get B. a means to an end C. kind of a favor for a friend D. a breath of fresh air.
D. Fresh air…Remember, I am moving from Baltimore, where we don’t have much in the way of ‘fresh air’ most days!
Staying Power: 3 years

Were you fated for involvement with the arts since the day you were born, drawn by a profound encounter or pulled in by an accident of circumstance?
Not exactly fated but, even as a kid, I was fastidious about organizing and displaying my bookshelves and record albums. I didn’t know it at the time, but I suppose I was already curating the objects around me. My love of art came later when I discovered Marcel Duchamp, and was hooked by his notions about the integration of art and life and his challenges to artistic convention.
Messiah Factor: Dalai Lama, anointed as a child

What’s your most embarrassing experience with art?
That I actually watched episodes of Bravo’s Work of Art reality TV show.
Privacy Restrictions: overshare

What is contemporary art, and why should anyone care?
For me, contemporary art speaks of our time; it reflects our lives and our moment in history. It has the ability to move and inspire us, but it also can challenge our opinions and assumptions, open us up to new perspectives, and can agitate us in ways that can bring a greater understanding of the world we live in…Why wouldn’t
everyone care about that?
Game Face: Time Magazine

Where do art and politics meet?
Ask Shepard Fairey.
Fairey Factor: very Fairey

Where do art and money meet?
Ask Damien Hirst.
Buying Power: News Corp. spending spree

Tell us, in a nutshell, why your institution is important to you and what you’re hoping to bring to the table.
My work has been guided by a belief in the power of art to create inspiring personal experiences, to foster social progress and to enrich and engage a community. The mission of SITE Santa Fe is aligned with these aspirations. SITE is an artist-centered institution that supports innovation and creative risk-taking and embraces the vanguard of artistic practice. My hope at SITE is to expand the audience for contemporary art, to bring viewers into an artist’s creative process and to make contemporary art accessible and relevant to the community. Not too ambitious, right?
Boilerplate Bonus: 9/10

What’s the ratio of stuff that’s alleged to be art versus stuff that’s any good?
The ratio: Whether you are talking about athletes, musicians, writers or artists, there is probably a similar ratio between the few who rise to the level of truly exceptional, in relation to the many who engage in (and may very well still be talented at) these pursuits.
Appetite for Cynicism: starving artist

If you weren’t an arts administrator, you’d probably be…
I actually don’t consider myself an arts administrator; I prefer ‘cultural producer’—has a much better ring to it, don’t you think? But if I wasn’t doing this, I might have tried my hand at being a dog breeder (Bernese mountain dogs)…I guess that would have made me a ‘canine producer.’
Secret Identity: Cesar Millan

What’s the most pressing story in Santa Fe’s news cycle: DWI, overdevelopment, Wi-Fi or corruption?
*SFR did not ask Hofmann about pressing issues in the Santa Fe news cycle because we didn’t want to scare her. Yet.
Social Conscious Calibration: wild card

SITE Santa Fe

1606 Paseo de Peralta
Annual Budget: $2 million
Membership: 1,000
Attendance: 20,000-25,000

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