when the party comes back to bite your butt
Post #389 • October 18, 2004, 6:49 AM • 12 Comments
By now everyone and their cat knows about the Nina Arias flap, but in case you missed it, here's the money quote from Nick Cindric, now sole proprietor of Rocket Projects:
I am not interested in running a night club for kids who can't afford the cover at I/O. My goal is to create a bridge between the artists, collectors, curators, and the museums in a more intellectual environment.
But you may not have heard about the Terminal 5 exhibition disaster up in New York. Tom Moody excerpted the October 7 article by Carol Vogel for the New York Times:
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has shut down an art exhibition in Terminal 5 of Kennedy Airport after a raucous opening-night party on Friday that left broken glass on the floor, graffiti on the walls and further destruction in its wake, the agency said yesterday.
How bad did it get? Pretty bad.
Besides smoking in the building and defacing the walls with graffiti, some guests broke a door leading to a runway, [Port Authority spokesman Pasquale] DiFulco said. Liquor was being sold at the party without a permit, he added, and Ms. Ward failed to maintain the space to "an acceptable level of cleanliness." Vomit and broken glass were on the terminal's floor, he said.
The Port Authority closed down the exhibition for good, which probably made the folks at JetBlue feel underwhelmed about the $100,000 they put into the show as its sponsor. A spokesman for JetBlue described the airline as "crushed" despite the fact that they had already gotten into an argument with curator Rachel K. Ward over a Vanessa Beecroft piece, which they excluded for reasons I can guess at (naked people) but not prove.
Brook and I were talking not all that long ago about how the openings have become parties, pure and simple. We have fun at them, but he sees more and more that people breeze by the art on display and return as quickly as possible to socializing (read: drinking).
Many people would not regard this as a problem. The opening parties create an atmosphere of excitement and fun around the art, they say. This nurtures the art community - the group of people connected by the fact that they value art.
I agree, but in my view the gallery has four responsibilities. One is commercial viability - it has to make enough money to justify everyone's effort. Another is aesthetic viability - the gallery must present art that acheives a high level of artistic success. Another is social viability - it has to create a buzz around the art and the space that will entice people through the doors. The fourth is intellectual viability - it has to nurture the reflective and analytical experience that reinforces the act of looking, and encourage arts writers to opine about it.
If the party people who attended Terminal 5 had trashed a hotel room, nobody would care except the staff and the cops. By trashing an art exhibition, though, they turned it into an intellectual failure (and inflicted heavy collateral damage on its commercial an aesthetic success). Cindric seems to want to create a more intellectual atmosphere at Rocket - in contrast to its previous opening parties that, say what you like about them, attracted big crowds (albeit a mix of serious art people and serious cutie-pies). A gallery must succeed at creating social viability, but above a certain level of energy, the party comes back to bite your butt.
The problem of people breezing by the art, the problem of people showing up for the drinks, music, and company, and the problem of trashing the joint lie on a continuum, in that order, of increasing social excess.
It's easy enough to refrain from hiring a deejay for the opening. Get rid of the alcohol? Well, alcohol is a great social (and financial!) lubricant, and we don't want the opening to be antisocial. Brook and I agree that we need an alternative to openings - something that feels social, but emphasizes looking. But what?