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In the Globe

Post #871 • September 18, 2006, 8:13 AM • 23 Comments

This past weekend the Globe featured a piece by Dusko Petrovich, a painter and critic based in Cambridge. On the occasion of the imminent but undetermined opening date of the new Institute for Contemporary Art here in Boston, it examined with laudable astuteness what happens when the museums get into the contemporary art business, and I do mean business. My Miami readers will find many parallels to apply to their situation. Tyler Green recently referred to Miami as "the most fascinating museum city in America." By "fascinating," I believe he means "inexplicable."

Also, Ken Johnson debuted in the paper as staff on Friday, reviewing an animal-themed summer show at the DeCordova. The word around the opening at the Mills Gallery suggested that criticism of this severity had not been at the paper for a long time, although it seemed pretty gentle to me.




September 18, 2006, 10:11 AM

The piece by Petrovich is well-written and nicely balanced.

Considering the level of art displayed in the "Animal" show, as well as I could glean it from his descriptions, Johnson's crit was not nearly severe enough.



September 18, 2006, 10:46 AM

It doesn't seem to me that Johnson's review marks a significant departure for a Globe review. It takes a mixed view of the work, spending more time (it seems to me) on the positive while hinting at other reservations, while being critical of the curatorial concept and presentation. Adjusting for the range of the work, that's not too different from Cate McQuaid's review of the Painting Summer exhibition. It may feel more critical in that the DeCordova presents local/regional contemporary art, and negative comments on that sting more to people hanging out at the Mills Gallery.

I was planning on skipping this one, for some of the reasons Johnson suggests: it's a pretty broad, and wellworn, theme. Only last year I saw Becoming Animal out at Mass Moca; not exactly the same, but close enough for me.


Marc Country

September 18, 2006, 12:20 PM

I wonder if Frank Noelker's portrait photographs of chimpanzees look as good as Jill Greenberg's "Monkey Portraits"...



September 18, 2006, 12:21 PM

The Johnson review is hardly an example of what I'd call critical severity, but maybe these Mills people have been consuming pablum too long (which wouldn't surprise me). I expect they'd take somebody like me as the second coming of Hannibal Lecter.


Tyler Green

September 18, 2006, 12:29 PM

No: Fascinating. The future of the American art museum is being field-tested in Miami.



September 18, 2006, 12:44 PM

I stand corrected. But is this the future? I've always viewed it as an anomoly, and a bit of a throwback to institutions like the Frick, to have private collectors museum-ing their own collections. Are collectors elsewhere following suit, or is this a local variation on keeping up with the Jonses? I'd like to hear your thoughts.


Tyler Green

September 18, 2006, 1:03 PM

Possibly coming soon to a magazine near you. ;-)



September 18, 2006, 1:07 PM

I suspect he is implying that the combination of ingredients here - huge metropolis, lots of money, lots of ego, lots of new art, very little old art and cultural institutions struggling to find a way - will culminate in some kind of "new paradigm".

It's an intereting thought, or would be, if there was any real imagination at work to make it happen. I don't see it. Culture here works like politics: scrapping for bits and pieces and temporizing to keep up apprearances.



September 18, 2006, 1:10 PM

Possibly coming soon to a magazine near you.

Looking forward to it! ;)


Tyler Green

September 18, 2006, 1:21 PM

I don't even know what a paradigm is!



September 18, 2006, 1:26 PM

20 cents.

Thank you, ladies and gents. I'll be here all week.



September 18, 2006, 2:38 PM

If the Miami situation is the future, I sure as hell hope it cleans up its act, or gets it together, ASAP. I live in Miami, so I'm not going by what I've read in some art mag or newspaper or what I've heard from some observer or other. I'm going on personal experience of the "scene" here, and I'm not exactly enthusiastic.



September 18, 2006, 3:36 PM

It's 20 cents, Tyler.



September 18, 2006, 6:35 PM

Actually, speaking again as a highly interested Miami local, and not somebody looking in from the outside and/or across the country, I'd say the Miami museum scene is far more frustrating than fascinating. Unless, of course, we're talking fascinating like, say, roadkill.


Marc Country

September 18, 2006, 9:12 PM

Like Opie, I wish I was around commenting sometime between 1:22 - 1:25 pm today, so I could have beat Franklin to that sweet (lame) punchline...

I'll get you next time, Gadget.... next tiiiiiiiime....



September 18, 2006, 9:16 PM

OP (#1), just so you know, Tyler Green disagrees with you rather markedly concerning the Petrovich review Franklin mentioned. Imagine that. Just follow the link to Green's blog and scroll all the way to the top item (Weekend wrap-up, 9/18).


Marc Country

September 18, 2006, 9:24 PM

Disagree? But it is well written and nicely balanced... that was one of those comments that went so far without saying, I didn't even bother to register my agreement.



September 18, 2006, 11:38 PM

Have museums not been collecting contemporaneous artists for many many years? 30? or 50? If it is a problem now, it's a problem because the vaults have been literally filled full and it costs more to warehouse and conserve the pieces than they earn in visitors' returns; and that because the collections are not even mostly made up of good lasting artworks (how presumptuous of me). There's neither room nor money for slide collections of new art, never mind the stuff itself, unless it's burned onto a $1 dvd in the first place.

A store-owner puts year-old product on sale, then throws away anything that's sat for successive seasons so that it doesn't take up space that would be better used for good stuff. And the proprietor doesn't bother pretending it's some grand honour to the essentially failed object by saying it's been de-accessioned.

The real contemporary problem is how to actually call the dead weight "dead" so that everyone'll understand it; after which it should be no problem at all to shed it and replace it.

I'm so simple.



September 18, 2006, 11:42 PM

The animal show seems interesting in theory - but what is up with the Mills gallery - Pop, Shine etc.?



September 18, 2006, 11:58 PM

Mr. Green misreported Petrovich, Jack.

Petrovich never said that the Guggenheim "started the Museum/Architecture marriage", as Green said, or strongly implied, that he did

Petrovich said that " the opening of the Guggenheim Bilbao in 1997 marked a watershed in the history of the art museum" and that the Gugggenheim started "multiple-location franchising."

This happens all the time with this sort of exchange and it is why one must check sources.



September 19, 2006, 12:04 AM

Ahab has a point. If you look at the MoMA permanent collection (although I believe it is not quite accurate) you will be surprised to see many relatively untested younger artists represented by more works than many of the older accepted ones. They seem to be participating in the current buying frenzy right along with the collectors. That was my impression, anyway.



September 19, 2006, 12:44 AM

Aw come on opie, I had more than one inaccurate point.



September 19, 2006, 7:58 AM

You're right, Ahab. Awkward construction. If one of my writing students did that it would get a dose of blue ink.



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