Agnes Gund

President and former chairman of the Museum of Modern Art, Agnes Gund is also the founder of the Studio in a School Association, which brings professional artists into New York schools to teach art classes. Decidedly outspoken on all cultural matters, she here turns her seasoned tongue to the subject of clay.

Suzanne Ramljak: What ceramic works does the Museum of Modern Art have in its collection? Is there anything by Charles Simonds or Robert Arneson?

Agnes Gund: We do have a Simonds and an Arneson and those are in the Painting and Sculpture Department and are considered art. I think it has to do with the fact that clay is seen more as a craft than as art. Personally, I find it very hard to understand that there is even a difference.

Ramljak: What do you think it would take to overcome these traditional divisions among the mediums?

Gund: It would probably take a curator who had a strong interest and who was comfortable convincing the other curators that things don’t have to be seen along such clear dividing lines.

Ramljak: This points to the fact that artists themselves don’t usually abide by these categories; almost any material or format is permissible. Ultimately it is the artists who will help us relax about these divisions.

Gund: That’s the way to put it. It is the artists who will let us relax. Picasso was one of the artists who proved that you can use any material for art.

Ramljak: You were once asked if race, gender or politics should be a factor in judging artists, and you answered that what one ought to do is focus on quality. What is quality?

Gund: Quality is the result of sustained interest, the enduring way that your eye always finds something new in a work – a comfort, an interest or elation.