I wasn’t going to blog about MOCA’s oh-so-audacious curatorial decision to sell overpriced handbags in the middle of their forthcoming Murakami exhibit if only because here at blogging.la we have no “Who the Fuck Cares” category with which to classify such a post. But having received the latest issue of Artkrush this week and seeing that they too have joined the ranks of Marshall Astor and Kevin Roberts in covering said audacious curatorial decision, I feel compelled to pipe up.
First of all, there’s the “wtfc” factor I mentioned above. Is there anyone who still believes in a rigid art/commerce binary anymore? (Certainly not in LA, methinks.) Haven’t most of our proscenium arches fallen long ago? Is the commodification of high art still shocking or even newsworthy? Tomato soup anyone?
I know that my too-many years in grad school overexposed me to post modern theory but c’mon people. You don’t need a PhD for this one. It’s so tired I’m boring even myself here, so I’m going to move on to my second grouse about the handbag extravaganza and that’s the centrality of the curator figure in all of this. The LA Times piece that inspired the Artkrush coverage as well as the blog posts quotes Paul Schimmel, MOCA’s chief curator, but nowhere does the article quote Murakami, the artist himself. [Ironically, the article is now available in-full only for paying customers, but the abstract is still free.] Of his own daring-do, Schimmel says, “People have touched base with the play between the commercial arena and high art, but this is a little more confrontational.” And I say, “Don’t be so quick to believe your own press, Paul.” Not only is the concept not that darned exciting, but the curatorship shouldn’t overwhelm the art it’s trying to present. Maybe that sounds dreadfully conservative, but what can I say; I’m old school. And lately I feel like LA’s curation is often like a bad case of msg poisoning: it’s supposed to bring out the flavor of the food, but instead it just gives you a headache.
Last week I was in San Francisco and went to see the Hiroshi Sugimoto exhibit at the de Young. Now that was some good curating. The lighting was good. The photographs were not crowded. The signage was all Sugimoto’s words on his own work. One room devoted to mathematical works had a mirrored wall. Lovely. On the other hand, who remembers the Magritte exhibit at LACMA earlier this year? Oy vey. It was too busy (clouds on the floor, freeways on the ceiling) and at the same time had too little useful interpretation. And again, look at LACMA’s page about the exhibit. What’s the focus here? Magritte? Oh no, the focus is the curator, John Baldessari, who just happened to have two works in the show.
Maybe the centrality of the curator is an inevitable approach in a town where everyone is seemingly a “producer,” but I find it both tiresome and annoying. I went to the Magritte show because I am interested in Magritte, not Baldessari. And if I go to the Murakami exhibit it will be because I’m interested in Murakami not Schimmel.
Or maybe I’ll just go to pick up a new handbag.
(The photo comes courtesy of robertpaulyoung, who has some really lovely shots posted.)