Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Who Will Present "Hide/Seek" Next?
Come on, You Can Do It!

As much credit as the National Portrait Gallery deserves for presenting Hide/Seek in our nation's capital, a symbolic gesture that no one who champions the art therein should take lightly, at this point I'm looking forward to seeing the exhibition presented as the curators envisioned it and that may mean waiting until it arrives in its next location. There were hopes that the David Wojnarowicz video might be returned to the exhibition in DC, but not only has the Smithsonian decided not to restore the exhibition, as Tyler Green has reported, there are other issues here that continue to overshadow even that outrageous act of censorship at NPG, making that context less than ideal for serious contemplation at the moment.

Indeed, with a growing list of artists and collectors whose artwork is included in the show asking to have it removed (first was artist AA Bronson and now collector Jim Hedges, who has encouraged other collectors to "please consider pulling your work from the National Portrait Gallery"), the context at the NPG has shifted considerably. Even should NPG evoke contractual agreements to keep those works in the show, it would be near impossible now to view Bronson's "Felix, June 5, 1994" or Hedges' lent "Untitled, Self-Portrait" by Jack Pierson and see only why the curators included them.

As obvious as moving the exhibition to a private museum (where the Republicans' threats of cutting funding could be derisively and properly dismissed as the political grandstanding it is) might seem, though, one of Hide/Seek's curators, Johnathan Katz, suggested a while back on Culture Grrl that this was not likely:
Do you honestly believe that a privately funded museum would even go for this exhibition in the first place? I tried for 15 years to slate variants of this exhibition somewhere without so much as a nibble.

Private institutions are entirely in the thrall of their boards, which is to say, their donors. Controversy in general is bad for donations. Surely you've noted how extensively the American museum world has become an extension of private capital and in the process lost any commitment to public service.
Ouch! (It hurts because it's true.)

But here's your chance, private museums! Your chance to present an important, historic exhibition sure to come with built-in press. There may already be discussions underway to have the exhibition travel (I don't know), but don't let that stop you. Show your support for curatorial integrity and freedom of speech by convincing your boards to present it in your institution too. Give this exhibition the life it deserves as a complete entity. Give the public a chance to actually debate the work in it without having politicians condescendingly make their viewing choices for them. Reinvigorate the faith today's curators have obviously lost in your commitment to public service.

Present Hide/Seek as it was curated. The nation is waiting.

Labels: Art and politics, censorship, politics


Blogger Julie Sadler said...

Ed, does it have to be a museum? (obviously I am completely unaware of gallery politics!) What about a gallery such as yours having the show? (of course if it was related to what you show at your gallery...)
Is this impossible?

12/22/2010 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

As honored as I would be, we're not only the right context...we're no where near big enough. This exhibition deserves to be seen at the that prestigious context or a similarly prestigious one.

12/22/2010 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Saskia said...

"...Surely you've noted how extensively the American museum world has become an extension of private capital and in the process lost any commitment to public service."

AHHH! We're doomed!
What does 'public service' even mean in this day and age?

12/22/2010 12:55:00 PM  
Blogger J. Wesley Brown said...

Good post. Surely you mean "the fait today's PRIVATE curators have obviously lost in your commitment to public service." Museum curators are another beast.

12/22/2010 04:34:00 PM  

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