“We are now the producer of the largest number of fine arts and decorative arts exhibitions in the U.S.,” says David Furchgott, IA&A’s president. “We have, on average, 15 to 20 exhibitions on view around the U.S. and around the world, and about another 30 or more exhibitions in process to be developed.”
“We pride ourselves that we produce exhibitions that can go to museums of any scale,” he says, from tiny community ones and small university galleries to major regionals such as the Dallas Museum of Art.
IA&A sometimes compiles the traveling shows from its own holdings, and Furchgott’s group sometimes borrows the artworks from some other person or institution’s collection; the shows can also be drawn from multiple sources.
Furchgott founded the organization 17 years ago, in part as a way to continue the work he had already been doing. A South Carolina native, he came to Washington in 1979 as a consultant to the International Sculpture Center’s 11th annual conference and exhibition. He was set to work for six months, but then the center’s director quit. Furchgott took over the event, which installed 88 large sculptures around the city. (Most were temporary, but one became permanent: Seward Johnson’s “The Awakening,” which was on Hains Point from 1980 to 2008 before being moved to National Harbor.)
The International Sculpture Center eventually left Washington, but Furchgott stayed. In 1995, he started International Arts & Artists to “help artists, and arts organizations, in issues relating to international, intercultural exchange in the arts.”
Initially, it was run from Furchgott’s home. “We weren’t intending to be a frontline organization,” he says. “We were going to be a behind-the-scenes operation.”
For the past eight years, IA&A has been based in the carriage house on Hillyer Court NW. Downstairs are three galleries for contemporary artists, mostly local. Above are about 20 administrators and graphic artists; the latter design catalogues, brochures and additional pieces for IA&A and other arts groups. The staffers are supplemented, Furchgott says, by “a large number of interns.”
The group often assembles shows at the request of museums. Others have been sponsored by international organizations, such as the Swedish Institute or the Korea Foundation. “We’re very, I think, ingenious about this. We stretch a little bit of money to a large effect,” he says. “The organization’s annual budget was around $2.5 million before the recession. It’s below $2 million now. Of course, there are some things that are paid for outside that don’t go through our books.”