The New Criterion asks what is a Museum
? There is a definite need for idiosyncrasy with an eye for relevance that makes the authority of such institutions a source of civic pride. Otherwise it's a temple to missed opportunities.
Check out Roberta Smith's critical take down of Adel Abdessemed's well intentioned but hackneyed solo show
. This is a problem critics often face when surveying the scene, exhibitions that try so hard to be relevant that they end up being derivative.
The Hammer Museum's new regional art prize and awards show for LA
makes the Contemporary Northwest Art Awards and Disjecta's ongoing attempt at a biennial seem so tame and non-competitive (collegial familiar names not discoveries) by comparison.
It isn't the 100k either, it is the way the Hammer effort is designed to be a taste making show that points out bright new lights just as they flicker onto the scene. This positions LA as being more interested in its cutting edge (Portland's institutions, apparently are not... well except PICA's TBA festival, which can be EVEN less polished than the alt spaces). For example, the CNAA's haven't taken many chances and have felt very safe and so solidly mid career... rather than picking work that spoke the most to our uncertain times. The last CNAA's had zero edge, whereas the current Portland2012 doesn't so much present new names as reconvene a group of artists who have had academic shows in the past few years... with an overall feel that is well, academic. It is often a throwback to the 90's, which is something that happens when you use a guest curator not someone who has been in studios for years before the show. The sad thing is Portland's alt spaces are doing a lot of very interesting work that certainly can give LA a run for their money (if only our institutions could get their heads out of the sand and made a point of doing a show about the times.... one has to take more chances to be relevant as a taste maker). My sense is that Portland's institutions are so busy trying to ingratiate themselves with the constituents they already feel comfortable with that the potential shock of the show itself becomes a foregone conclusion. Rather than lead, they insinuate. The Hammer doesn't have that problem, they lead by taking chances.
Then there is this cathedral converted to a bookstore
... ahh if only all sacred places could be a place of learning. The cross shaped conference table seems a tad much though... we get it and yeah some ex-catholics will dream of having sex on it.
E. WA, MT, ID & WY need their own survey.
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