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A university museum has been criticized for displaying the ‘terrible’ art of a self-help author and major donor

For museums, the largesse of the rich rarely comes unconditionally, aAnd a particularly clear example has been revealed at California State University, Long Beach.

Three years ago, he accepted a check for millions of dollars from a poet and self-help book author named Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld. Fast forward to today and you can see in the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Gallery at the school’s Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Museum of Contemporary Art an exhibition of works by – you guessed it – Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld.

In 2019, Kleefeld donated $10 million to the university – by far the largest donation received during the school’s $24 million capital campaign to expand the art museum of the University. university. And the benevolence did not stop there: months later, she also bequeathed 120 of her own works of art to the institution’s permanent collection (as well as her library, her personal archives and more than 20 books inspirational books she has written, including The alchemy of the possible: reinventing your personal mythology and Soul Seeds: revelations and drawings).

This group of works of art – which includes 74 paintings and 104 drawings by Kleefeld – now constitutes 6% of the institution’s holdings, according Los Angeles Times Critic Christopher Knight. Going forward, examples of Kleefeld’s work will be displayed indefinitely in rotating exhibitions mounted in the gallery named in his honor.

Reviewing Kleefeld’s current exhibition, titled “In-Between the Silence”, Knight wrote that “the art is frankly terrible – by far the worst I’ve seen in any serious, public or private, for-profit or non-profit, years from now.” He called the museum’s deference to the donor a “train wreck”, arguing that “a serious disservice is being done to the students”.

An anonymous professor from the university added a similar sentiment, telling the newspaper: “If it was a student candidate’s portfolio, he wouldn’t be admitted to the program.

Kleefeld Contemporary director Paul Baker Prindle did not respond to our request for comment, but told the Time that Kleefeld approached the museum to donate his work several years ago. The institution, in turn, asked for a cash donation in addition to the artwork — an exchange that certainly suggests an “I’ll scratch your back” type of deal. (Prindle was not with the institution at the time.)

“We are grateful for the investment this donor and others have made in the Cal State Long Beach Museum and Arts,” Gregory Woods, director of press services at the university, said in a statement. “These donations are essential to expanding the educational opportunities available to our students and bringing cultural enrichment to our community.”

“In-Between the Silence” comprises 10 canvases and 13 works on paper, most of which fall into an expressionist gray space between figuration and abstraction and bear new-age names. Mirrored Souls (2013) shows two lovers in a Klimtian embrace; Oracle Caves (2015) depicts a raw, gestural landscape in the colors of a sunset.

A wall text from the artist, a great visitor to the exhibition: “My life’s passion has been to create art from an unconditioned well-being and to inspire such a journey in others. Living our ultimate goal is to thrive in our soul’s calling, sculpting ourselves into our highest ideal so we can perform at our very best.

Kleefeld’s previous show was in 2014, at a luxury hotel and spa in Big Sur.

Four thousand square feet have been added to the museum’s footprint as part of the renovation effort, which has been underway since 2020, and its exhibition space has doubled. Of the $10 million donated by Kleefeld, $7 million went towards construction while the rest will go towards operating costs and scholarships.

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