The last thing I'm ever going to write about the Miami Art Museum
Post #978 • March 29, 2007, 3:22 PM • 46 Comments
Until last May I lived in Miami, where I worked as an artist, art critic, and art teacher. Each of those roles brought me into contact with the Miami Art Museum during the time since its conversion from a kunsthalle to a collecting insititution in 1996. It would have benefited my art career if I had succeeded in interesting any of their curators in my work, but I did not. (I didn't take it personally. Neither MAM nor MoCA has ever exhibited a painting by a Dorsch Gallery artist.) I found enough to write about there, both positively and negatively, but as time went on the quantity of the latter exceeded the former by a noticiable margin. I would have liked to take some undergraduate painting students to see traditional painting skills in a show dedicated to the subject, but the opportunity never presented itself in eleven years of teaching. So my frustrations with MAM were numerous, but they were especially acute regarding my art. With three galleries representing my paintings and some significant grants under my belt, I was only missing, as far as my career was concerned, institutional recognition for my work.
What to do? Curators at MAM saw my paintings. Maybe all of them did. My professional career began two years before MAM started collecting, and I figured, with nothing much to go on except optimism, that someone would include something of mine eventually. But twelve years went by without that ever happening. I had to decide: do I stick around Miami for a thirteenth? A fourteenth? Maybe they informally slated me for a solo exhibition on the whole top floor in mid-2009 and I blew it by moving to Boston. Oh well. I could only look at their track record, which clearly demonstrates that they're not thinking about painting very much.
This is not merely my sour opinion. By my recollection, MAM has only ever had two painting shows, by which I mean shows of painting unmixed with photo, installation, video, or sculpture. By unmixed, I mean that these other perfectly legitimate modalities are not present either in the room or incorporated into the work. (Since you're wondering, the shows were Brice Marden in 1999 and Carlos Alfonso in, I think, 1997.) Why split it up this way? Because when it has a photo show, such as its current Charles Cowles Collection, or a video show, such as its current shows of Jesper Just and Andy Warhol, the museum doesn't feel equivalent pressure to fill them out with the inclusion of other media. Odili Donald Odita? Better throw in an installation. Rosenquist? Better put in one of his hapless painting/assemblage hybrids. Rauschenberg? Wangechi Mutu? Fabian Marcaccio? They're safe; they incorporate photo.
I live in Boston now, and I wouldn't be thinking about this except for a press release I got about MAM's upcoming Collector's Council show.
Established to expand Miami Art Museum's permanent collection only two years ago, MAM's Collectors Council has already donated a rich group of high-quality, cutting-edge artworks to the museum's collection. Collectors Council Acquisitions, on view April 13-July 1 in MAM's New Work Gallery, provides audiences with the perfect opportunity to see firsthand the distinguished works that the Council has added to MAM's collection. ...
According to exhibition curator René Morales, the works on vieware a testament to the quality of the group's vision. They include a wide variety of media, from painting and photography to video and installation, and together convey a number of important, general themes in contemporary art, including identity, nature and abstraction.
Upon request, MAM kindly supplied me with a list of works in the exhibition. (I have removed fractional measurements for the sake of layout.)
Cory Arcangel, Colors 2005, Video; edition of 5, Running time: 33 days
Shimon Attie, From the series The Writing on the Wall 1991-1993; Mulackstrasse 37: Former Jewish residents, ca. 1932, 1992, Ektacolor photograph, 20 x 25 inches, Edition of 25; Mulackstrasse 37: Former kosher butcher shop and laundry, 1930, 1992, Ektacolor Photograph, 20 x 25 inches, Edition of 25; From the series Between Dreams and History 1998, "I remember when..." 1998, Ektacolor photograph, 24 x 72 inches; From the series The History of Another 2002-2003, Looking onto the Temple of Apollo 2003, Lambda photograph, 40 x 50 inches, Edition 3 of 3
Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Replenishing 2001, 7 Polaroid photographs, 20 x 24 inches each; 72 x 60 inches overall
Nathan Carter, Calling all Marine Craft - NOAA is Reporting Further Discrepancies in Florida, 2005, Plywood, acrylic, enamel paint, 47 x 32 inches
Anna Gaskell, Erasers, 2005, 35mm black-and-white film, transferred to DVD, Duration: 10 minute film loop, Projection dimensions variable, AP 1 from edition of 4
Mark Handforth, Western Sun 2004, Fluorescent lights, fixtures, Dimensions variable
Arturo Herrera, When Alone Again III, 2001, Latex paint on wall, Dimensions site specific - work includes signed certificate, working plan and color samples
Sarah Morris, Cinerama [Los Angeles], 2005, Household gloss paint on canvas, 113 x 113 inches
Wangechi Mutu, You tried so hard to make us away, 2005, Ink, acrylic, glitter, fur, contact paper and collage on Mylar, 88 x 51 inches
Rivane Neuenschwander, Quarta-Feira de Cinzas/Epilogue (Ash Wednesday/Epilogue), 2006, HD-DVD projection, Edition of 8, 2 artist's proofs
Damian Ortega, Int/Ext, 2006, C-print, 4 x 51 cm each (Poliptych of 5), Edition 1/5
Gavin Perry, Untitled (Escape Plan) 2006, Vinyl tape, resin on board, 82 x 121 inches
Raymond Pettibon, Sunday Night and Saturday Morning, 2005, DVD animation, edition of 10 + 2 APs, 16:45 minutes
Lorna Simpson, ID, 1990, 2 gelatin silver prints, 2 plastic plaques, Edition of 4 with 2 APs, Overall dimensions: 48 x 82 inches
I count two paintings, the Perry and the Morris.
I don't say any of this out of anger. MAM hardly owes me attention and I'm perfectly happy to fault my own artistic shortcomings to explain their disinterest. I say it to note that the museum's behavior raises questions, as the postmodernists like to say: By what metrics can a museum be said to fairly support, or fail to fairly support, local artists? If it needs my humble endorsement (as MAM might have at one time regarding its Museum Park plans), should I give it, knowing that it might only result in a bigger museum to not put my work in? Should I support a museum that doesn't support me in particular, my colleagues in general, and my artistic concerns on the whole? What constitutes a diverse museological program? How do we know when a public institution is being steered by private interests to an unacceptable degree? What, exactly, is a contemporary museum supposed to do in the first place?
I never came up with a good answer to any of these questions, except one, and I gave it with my feet.