An interview with Brett Littman, Executive Director of the Drawing Center


Serghei Litvin: You accepted to be FID Prize 2016 President of the Jury and we are honored. This seventh edition of the drawing contest takes place 100% online. It is open to artists from around the world, without any age limit. The subjects, techniques and dimensions are entirely at the discretion of the participants. The contest is independent of any aesthetic or commercial strategy. It is open to all modes of expression, from the most traditional to the most experimental. What is your personal involvement with drawing?

Brett Littman: I’ve been director of The Drawing Center now for 8 years and the thing that has been interesting to me in drawing (I’m not an art historian, I don’t have a PhD in art history – I come to the art world from philosophy and poetry) in drawing is the idea that it is an analogue for thinking. So I’m interested in how drawing actually intersects with many disciplines including architecture, food, engineering, science, mathematics and music. I have not abandoned visual arts, of course that’s the core of what we do, but I am very interested in what drawing means to many different kinds of practitioners in the 21stcentury particularly as we move more and more to a digital age and what that actually might mean for the future of the medium.

Serghei Litvin: You speak of “digital age” for drawing. But how can the traditional (material) one compete with the second, the digital? Where can they meet? Can they be equally judged? Isn’t their essence different? A pièce unique will never be a clone – and vice versa. Anyway, why is the good old drawing so active today?

Brett Littman: For me, drawing is at the root of all visual thinking. The synergy of the hand, mind and eye really occurs in drawing and gives it a unique foundational position in helping us understand, interpret and represent the world. Everyone can draw, sketch or make notations. Artists, architects, graphic designers, chefs, filmmakers and other creative professions are using drawing more than ever as a way to express themselves, solve problems and to see the world in new and different ways. That said, I’ve been on more than 500 studio visits since I’ve been the director of the Drawing Center and I must say that less than 20 per cent of the time artists have taken out works on paper and showed them as drawings. They’ve danced for me, they’ve sung, they’ve showed me an algorithm, they’ve showed me an animation, they’ve performed, they’ve done many, many, many things and also sometimes when they don’t even know what to call things, things that they just can’t classify any other way, they call them drawings. So I think that the idea and definition of drawing has become both quite fluid and elastic. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe that’s a bad thing, but also I have to say, that I’m interested in how artists are defining it as well as how historians are.

Serghei Litvin: The FID Prize Jury pays attention to manner in which the poetic state is expressed graphically by the line, both in the act of drawing and in the drawing as a work. It takes into consideration the impact of the drawing on its audience. What do you personally expect from the candidates?

Brett Littman: My hope is that the artists who apply for the 2016 FID Prize deeply respect what drawing can be and can achieve. They should be idealistic and projective about what drawing can achieve as an art medium, as an approach to object making and as a form of visual thinking. I would love to see drawings by a wide range of practitioners from different disciplines and really hope to see some really groundbreaking and expansive approaches to the medium.

the drawing center

Brett Littman is the Executive Director of The Drawing Center, 35 Wooster Street│NY NY 10013
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Brett Littman (B.A., Philosophy, UC San Diego) has been working in the non-profit arts field for more than fourteen years. He is the Executive Director of The Drawing Center, based in New York, since May 2007; was the Deputy Director at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, a MoMA affiliate from 2003 – 2007; from 2001 – 2003 he was the Co-Executive Director of Dieu Donné Papermill in SoHo, New York and from 1995 – 2001 he was the Associate Director of UrbanGlass in Brooklyn, New York.
Littman lectures internationally on art, design and craft. He is an active critic, a member of AICA/USA and has written numerous catalog essays and articles for a wide variety of international publications.

source Clocktower Productions is a non-profit art institution working in the visual arts, performance, music, and radio. Founded in 1972 in Lower Manhattan by MoMA PS1 Founder Alanna Heiss, Clocktower is the oldest alternative art project in New York, and its radio station, Clocktower Radio, was founded in 2003 as one of the first all-art online museum radio stations in the world.