Okay, look out you current tenant artworks, there’s a new absentee landlord in town, me. And I’m not going for rent control. Sure, the trustees left a security deposit of the permanent collection but I want to clean house, reward troublemakers, and invite crashers. Aren’t all curators landlords who allow fine art to live together in a sublet for a while and be uneasy roommates? Or is it closer to a dictatorship where I can order eviction by deaccession if they talk back, balk at my orders or fail to entice enough public comment?
Are prints, sculptures, paintings and photographs relieved to be in museum storage where they don’t have to shine, “art-off”, risk exposure to light? Or are they happy when they have to “work”? Get along with each other in public? Hear sometimes stupid comments from hostile museum-going amateurs? Publicly humiliate themselves by being forced to live up to their auction prices?
Who should room together in the world of contemporary art? Can a Russ Meyer photograph go to sleep in the same gallery as an Yves Klein blue chip masterpiece? Certainly, Sturtevant is secure enough to be hated, but is Anne Truitt? Video art has “street cred” these days but can it ever catch up with a John Currin painting in art-history references, even if they’re embraced and mocked? Who’d copy from Richard Prince? Who’d be sloppier to live with than Mike Kelley? And better yet, who’d ruin decoration more than Christopher Wool? Suppose an “art-terrorist” like Gregory Green was hiding amongst us? Do we snitch or shiver in welcome artistic fear? Would Fred Sandback approve of the damage his fellow roommates have caused or would he think they were trying too hard?
Can artwork sexually attract each other? Does minimalism make pop horny? Does pornography elevated to high art lose its erotic power? Does size matter or can a tiny joke compete with a maximalist icon? Can art ever be “funny” without losing academic enthusiasm? Would Fischli/Weiss and Roman Signer fight over who’s more droll? More Swiss? And even more importantly, if all these works had to live together would Carl Andre ever be able to laugh?
Maybe the entire museum-going experience is in need of intervention. Why is there no art in the parking lot? Wouldn’t a symphony of car crash sound effects remind visitors not to drink too much and drive home after an opening? And shouldn’t the public know how much this show cost? Why not display all the expense receipts (shipping, insurance, construction) in a vitrine like artistic ephemera and let the museum-goers snoop at the endless price of exhibition? Who says simple sculptural vandalism somewhere in the building make the whole experience of visiting an art museum sexier? And what if the blue-plate special being served in the restaurant is a photograph rather than an actual meal—isn’t that nutrition of a different kind? Can “art talk” that often infuriates the public go even further on the Walker’s “Art on Call” and become so ludicrously abstract that the listener suddenly understands? And finally, can I, the new landlord, be tyrannical enough to include a small number of my own works in the show if it makes a few members of the permanent collection blush or feel over-privileged? After all, “getting along” is the enemy of contemporary art, isn’t it?