The Business of Being Brant

Art | Nov 2017 | BY Katy Diamond Hamer

Allison Brant grew up surrounded by art. With a father who is one of the biggest collectors in the country, she knew there was a chance that she would end up working in the industry. “I always loved art, but Peter never pushed it on any of us,” she says, referencing to her father, collector Peter Brant. “Although now we are all involved in some capacity.”

In 2004, Peter asked Allison to manage the family collection specifically loans and acquisitions. “I was in my early twenties managing from the warehouses, and handling and organizing the collection in all of the homes,” says Brant, noting that this was before the foundation had its home in Greenwich, Connecticut. Brant has since taken on the role of director of the foundation, and by the end of this year, she will have overseen 16 exhibitions.

Having the opportunity to interact with artists such as Urs Fischer, Julian Schnabel and Rob Pruitt, has provided Brant with an incredible vantage point in the contemporary art world. “I run all the programming for the museum and all the installations. It’s been an amazing experience,” she says. “Getting to work with artists is so great.”

She also notes that each exhibition requires a different level of structural intervention at the foundation; one of the most demanding exhibitions she worked on was Fischer’s 2010 “Oscar the Grouch,” which included the artist digging through the floors of the foundation. “Urs excavated graves from the double-height gallery and it took six months for us to dig through the floor to create his installation,” says Brant. “All the electrical wiring had to be moved to accommodate it. He also made a highly detailed miniature model of the building inside the lower-level gallery.”

Throughout the years, she’s often made drastic changes to the foundation galleries to accommodate artwork. Showing a particular genre and friend group of contemporary artists, such as Klara Liden, Nate Lowman (I Wanted to Be an Artist but All I Got Was This Lousy Career, 2013), Dan Colen (Help!, 2014) and the late Dash Snow (Freeze Means Run, 2016), the structural and conceptual iterations have varied in content and aesthetics alike. “When Dan Colen had his trash pile sculpture in lower level gallery, we lived with his birds for six months,” she explains. “Every morning, it was like being a Disney character being greeted by these chirping birds.”

For their most recent—and widely acclaimed—exhibition, the foundation invited artist and curator Sadie Laska to organize the group show, “Animal Farm.” The largest to date, it featured a diverse group of 36 artists, and encompassed a diverse range of gender and racial identity—more than the foundation has ever had. “’Animal Farm,’ was really Sadie’s checklist,” says Brant.

Utilizing artworks from their own collection and borrowing from others has allowed the foundation to keep the bar raised high. Opening in November is a solo exhibition with another artist who, like Snow, died young. “We are working with David Zwirner on an exhibition with works by Jason Rhoades— and we are excited.”

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