Will Work for Art: Jim Ganz

"Will Work for Art" takes you behind the scenes to meet the people who make the Fine Arts Museums work. This week we take you into the curatorial department at the Legion of Honor to meet Jim Ganz, curator of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts. Originally from West Hartford, Connecticut, Jim has been with the Museums for three years and one month (but who's counting, anyway?).

What do you do here at the Museums?

I am a curator in the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, which is the department of works on paper for the Museums housed at the Legion of Honor. I am mainly responsible for the pre-1900 collections of prints and drawings, and I also have a strong interest in photography.

How did you become involved with the Museums?

Prior to arriving in San Francisco, I was a curator at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Having spent a dozen years in the Berkshires, I was ready to move on to a larger collection, ideally in a big city museum. When the job opened up here, I pounced on it.

What is your favorite artwork or gallery in the Museums and why?

That is a difficult question! We have nearly 100,000 objects in the Achenbach alone, and my favorite changes from time to time. Always at or near the top of my list is our pen and ink drawing, The Beekeepers, made in the workshop of Pieter Brueghel the Elder around 1568. It is inscribed with the Flemish proverb, “He who knows where the nest is, has the knowledge; he who robs it, has the nest,” but its real meaning may be far more nuanced. I find this sheet endlessly fascinating. The detailed draftsmanship and realism of the scene are remarkable, but what really makes it tantalizing is the shrouding of the figures. The mystery extends to the authorship of the drawing. It is a copy of an original Brueghel drawing in the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett made by a very talented member of the artist’s workshop who may never be identified.

(Workshop of) Pieter Bruegel the Elder (Flemish, circa 1525–1569). The Beekeepers, 1567. Pen and brown ink on laid paper. Museum purchase, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund and William H. Noble Bequest Fund. 1978.2.31

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I get out and enjoy the great outdoors. I’m a huge fan of Muir Woods, and hiking the trails of Pacifica (where I live) has become my favorite extracurricular activity since moving here. We also have some amazing trails right here at the Legion. I’m always up for a lunchtime hike.

What are you working on right now?

I am planning the installation of the large loan exhibition Pissarro's People that opens at the Legion in October, as well as a small installation called Artistic San Francisco, featuring paintings and works on paper from our permanent collection.

Do you remember the first time you visited the Museums?

I first visited the old de Young and the Legion during a whirlwind trip to the West Coast back in September 1989, just before the big earthquake. The manageable scale of San Francisco and its historic architecture reminded me a lot of Center City, Philadelphia where I was living at the time. I never dreamed that one day I would find myself here.