Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The People's Museum

At top left: Adriana Lara's "Installation (Banana Peel)" exhibit on display at The New Museum as part of the current show "The Generational: Younger than Jesus." A museum employee is instructed to eat a banana each day, then discard the peel on the floor of the exhibit for people to look at and think about.

At bottom right: "Lov'Orchid Coupelle Objet," created by master glass makers at Daum. Materials: lead crystal glass. On display currently at Bergdorf Goodman in their 7th Floor Gallery (Home Dept.).

New York can boast it has a good number of renown modern art museums - from The MoMA to The New Museum. But what I truly think is impressive is the high number of world class "commercial art" museums New York has. When I say commercial art I mean art that is chosen and displayed on the basis of popular demand, a truly democratic method of curating an exhibit by letting the people decide what is exhibited. And how do the people decide? With their pocket books, (which is a very truthful way of determining what people actually value and what inspires them, and not just what they might say that they value or appreciate in art- for sake of sounding sophisticated). I am talking about what is more commonly referred to as "stores."

From Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany's to Pearl River Market and the various import jewelry stores south of Herald Sq. area, - these are the true museums of art. These museums hold objects that are relevant to people's lives, exquisite, beautiful and far more interesting than say a pile of torn up pizza boxes you could see on the floor of The New Museum. Who decided that a pile of pizza boxes was worthy of a place in a guarded museum and that you should pay $12 for the privilege of viewing it? This decision was made in an extremely narrow top down manner, by one person, or a small group of museum directors. A select few individuals have the power to shape what society should view as "art." The rest of us are expected to be in awe at such "thought-provoking," pieces and anyone who thinks otherwise must be ignorant or too simple-minded.

But do you really consider such pieces art? I believe that if the masses truly did believe this was art then Bergdorf Goodman would be selling torn up pizza boxes instead of delicately crafted necklaces or handmade china. It strikes me as ironic that art is commonly thought of as an expression of individualism and often meant to make a viewer reflect and think, and yet the world of modern art has quite the opposite effect - "art" is filtered through a select few museum directors and then the people flock like sheep to art museums and nod introspectively at twisted pieces of metal wires that are displayed under hushed museum lighting. If there is anyone at all deserving of the title of artist it is not the person who crumpled up the wires, but the material science engineer who originally figured out how to create a metal suitable for wires.

If people value democracy and openness in thought, why, of all places, should it not extend to the modern art world? Why is the art world still so controlled by dictatorships? Think beyond what you are supposed to view as art museums and realize that every store is too a museum. Every store is an art museum curated by the power of the people. True, democracy is not perfect, but as history bears out, decisions made by the people and for the people seem to create a much more diverse, rich and creative society than the ones controlled by a dictatorship.

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