Monday, July 28, 2008

Dale Chihuly, meet Marcel Duchamp . . .

"A few readers denigrated Chihuly as "the Thomas Kinkade of sculpture," which even I consider too severe, though I also wish I'd thought of it first."

I did not read the original review, but I think the ideas and comments presented here are relevant in how they address the process of dialogue about art on a local level (except a threatened and out of place comment about the dirty bloggers.) Of particular interest to me is the "blockbuster" museum show that appeals as entertainment to a much wider audience in a city, thus selling a lot more tickets, and the academic response of mild horror to such fluffing and mass-appeal.

We witnessed firsthand the birth of this trend as we waded through the lines of Greater-Chicagoland-Area-Surbabanites trying to crowd into the mega-Monet exhibition to get to our first year studio classes. It is marketing genius that is great for maintaining a financially healthy institution but it undermines the mission statement of said institution in a number of fundamental ways by so strongly focusing on market competition and advertising to sell tickets and merchandise. This would be akin to having a "Dead Sea Scrolls" reading at the Spanish National Library in Madrid, which would cause me to want to go all of a sudden, pay an inflated admission price, and buy an umbrella and coffee table book; much to the dismay of the historians and law students who are trying to digest the dense manuals inside.

As a side note, Chihuly is based in Western Washington State and for better or worse it is impossible in Seattle to avoid him and his workshop spawn anywhere that shows art. I was aware of his influence long before I knew who Duchamp was and it has always perked my interest to see his work displayed elsewhere, increasingly in high end museums.

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