The obvious, because no one else is stating it
Post #1422 • November 23, 2009, 8:50 AM • 100 Comments
First of all, "Jeff Koons " and "intellectually significant project" are mutually exclusive items. This is someone whose artistic triumph was identifying the self-congratulatory tastes that run the art world and cashing in accordingly. If that is intellectually significant, then the guys who run around after a hurricane selling plywood for five times its usual value are giants of modern thought.
Secondly, as I put it at James Wagner's joint at the beginning of October:
This development at the New Museum doesn't strike me as an aberration of practice, so much as an aberration of discretion about something that has always gone on at some level. I don't know about its financial structure, but whether the New Museum receives public funding or is merely exempt from taxation as a nonprofit, society at large is paying for them to turn a particular strain of contemporary art history into a canon as its curators see fit. This strikes me as a kind of corporatism, akin to farm subsidies and the underwriting of oil exploration. If you look at the germane economics, you would predict that such arrangements would begin to operate irresponsibly given enough opportunity to do so. I think we have finally reached a point in the art world that the collectors have more credibility than the museums, allowing the collectors to act about like we'd expect them to, and obliging the museums to launch into full-blown apologetics about the quality of the art on display and the purity of their scholarship and curatorship as they launder the value of the private collection on their walls.
The government should either start taxing the New Museum as if it were any other self-interested private enterprise, or it should stop taxing me and my collectors, so that they have more money to buy my art and I have more money to invest in my career.
Lastly, I've been complaining about this sort of thing for years. Anyone who says that museum exhibitions of contemporary art are pure exercises in taste and scholarship are naïve as lambs, or, like the New Museum, trying to justify a put-up job. I was disabused of those lofty notions back in 1995, when the Miami Art Museum made its transition from kunsthalle to collecting institution and put on a show (the first of several) of its nascent collection. It featured a recently donated work by Jose Bedia, and the director at the time, Suzanne Delahantey, proclaimed to the Miami Herald that Bedia was one of the most important living American artists, which was absurd then and looks even more absurd in retrospect.
The question is not whether a contemporary art exhibition at a museum is a selfish exercise, but the degree to which the museum has sublimated selfish interests into a good exhibition. And that's an artistic and scholarly question, not a moral one. The moral one won't go away until both the parties involved and the parties not involved are treated equally under the law. The only way to make that happen is to oblige these powerful cliques like the ones at the New Museum to foot their own bill, and for the state to obligate them to the same taxes that fall to everyone else, or relieve everyone else of those taxes in a manner befitting these presumed agents of the public good.