Thursday, July 20, 2006


Museum Exhibitions: Root for the Home Team

One thing not mentioned in my WSJ piece on the expanded Minneapolis Institute of Arts was the temporary loan show in the new wing, The Surreal Calder.

Better for the MIA that I didn't mention it.

Organized by the Menil Collection, Houston, this show took a one-stop shopping approach to curating: Almost all its Calders are from a single source, the Calder Foundation (which is run by the artist's family and contains works from his estate). The Surrealist works, all gathered in one introductory gallery, rather than interspersed with the Calders for comparison, are generally not the ideal examples to make a case for that movement's influence on Calder's work.

By importing a show curated by an outsider and regarded as a likely crowdpleaser, Minneapolis perpetuates the self-effacing mistake made by many museums when they open new facilities: They don't show confidence in their own curators' ability to conceive something important and engaging enough to enhance the inaugural hoopla. (I'm also thinking of the Andrew Wyeth show, organized by the High Museum, Atlanta, for its reopening, but guest-curated by an outsider.)

I'm constantly impressed by the intelligence and talents of lesser-known curators whom I meet on the road, and what better time to showcase their unique voices than when their museum is the center of public and media attention? True, the home team is mostly engaged in reinstalling the permanent collection, but surely someone can step up to the plate to bat one out of the park---a homegrown exhibition worthy to be viewed during prime time and later toured to other institutions.

In Minneapolis' case, it appears, from the advance exhibition schedule, that the first upcoming major temporary exhibition to be organized in-house is "San Francisco Psychedelic," Feb. 10-June 10, 2007.

What are they smoking?

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