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Microsoft Cofounder Paul Allen Taps Minneapolis-Based Curator To Head New Arts Center in Seattle

Ben Heywood. COURTESY MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE

Ben Heywood.VIA MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE

Last Friday, Paul Allen—art collector, Microsoft co-founder, venture capitalist, philanthropist, owner of several sports teams (and a Frank Gehry-designed Jimi Hendrix museum), and self-proclaimed “Idea Man“—announced that he would be opening an arts nonprofit in Seattle called Pivot Art + Culture. The Minneapolis Star Tribune now reports that former Minneapolis-based curator Ben Heywood has been appointed its director. Heywood had previously served as executive director of Minneapolis’s The Soap Factory for thirteen years.

Pivot Art + Culture will be located inside the Allen Institute for Brain Science, a research facility in the process of being developed on the edge of Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. The institute, as well as the 4,000 square-foot gallery, will open in December. It’s speculated that Allen, whose company, Venture, is backing this weekend’s Seattle Art Fair, is aiming to increase the historically tech-centric city’s visibility on the contemporary art map.

Allen, a regular on our own Top 200 Collectors List with a personal fortune in the neighborhood of $17.5 billion, has, according to the Star Tribune, donated more than $100 million to cultural institutions in the past 25 years while simultaneously growing a private art collection that now totals 300 works ranging from Old Masters to contemporary.

Heywood told the Star Tribune that he was planning to mix alternative programs with traditional museum practices, adding “It’s a marvelous job and I’m extremely excited about it. Allen is a great guy with extremely deep pockets and I think we can do some very exciting things here.”

Allen, whom Blake Gopnik once characterized in Newsweek as “having signed his own nondisclosure agreement [even at his most voluble],” keeps an especially low profile regarding his art collection, though you can probably expect to see a good deal of it at Pivot Art + Culture. Back in 2012, the same Newsweek profile mentioned that “the secretive collector has started to circulate his treasures to the public,” name-dropping, seemingly at random, Rodins, Calders, a Giacometti, a Monet, a Gauguin, a pointillist Seurat, a Rothko, a Lichtenstein, a Damien Hirst, and Captain Kirk’s first command chair from Star Trek. In the meantime before Pivot Art + Culture opens, the Star Tribune notes that forty landscape paintings from Allen’s collection will be on view at an exhibition at Portland Art Museum, “Seeing Nature,” on view beginning October 10. The collection of works by artists including Turner, Monet, and Klimt, will then journey to Washington, D.C., New Orleans, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, finally returning home for a run at the Seattle Art Museum in early 2017.

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