Sure, the current Christo and Jeanne Claude show isn't an entirely encouraging step forward towards special contemporary exhibitions (although, as Blake noted when he reviewed Over the River for the WaPo, it was conceived prior to new director Dorothy Kosinski's arrival). But I think shows that illustrate the relationship between what art actually is in the present moment and what Duncan Phillips's idea of modern art was--which, after all, wasn't formed all that long ago--could add much needed perspective on the collection, and offer lots of opportunities to revisit familiar work.
It may not have anything to do with contemporary art, but I'm reminded of the traveling exhibition that came to the Phillips back in 2007, Moving Pictures. No, the Phillips is not someplace you would identify with collecting film or video, but that didn't stop them from lining the gallery walls with huge LCD monitors. The show very effectively demonstrated the reciprocal relationships between photography, early film, and painting at the beginning of the 20th century--and how the viewer's expectations for images in all three mediums would be dramatically, irrevocably changed. In this context, several very strong paintings by John Sloan from the collection drew my attention in a way they otherwise never would have.
Of course, it could just be that I'm hungry for somebody, anybody in this town to start putting together smart and ambitious contemporary art shows. And if the Phillips has the resources and intellectual energy to do it, then I say full speed ahead. Still waiting for them to officially announce their new curator...
Pictured: John Sloan, Six O'Clock, Winter, 1912, oil on canvas, The Phillips Collection