Friday, April 30, 2010

Shaquille O’Neal as Art Curator

Size Does Matter, an exhibit curated by Shaquille O’Neal, will continue to run through May 27, 2010, at the Flag Art Foundation, a contemporary art space on W.25th St in NYC.

In an article in New York Magazine (02/15/10), when asked how he made his choices, Shaq said, "Art is a process of delivering or arranging elements that appeal to the emotions (...). The thing about size -- if it's big or small you have to look at it. Because I'm so big you have to look at me. I think of myself as a monument. But sometimes I like to feel small."
(Maybe by going to a planetarium? MJM)

Shaq weighs 320 pounds and stands 7'1" in size 22 shoes, so he knows something about size relativity! He selected 66 works for the show, ranging from Andreas Gursky's billboard-size photograph, Madonna I, to a tiny portrait of Shaq himself, by Willard Wigan.

The exhibit, which includes works by international artists (including the likes of Chuck Close & Cindy Sherman), explores the ways that scale affects perception. Large and small objects require different viewing approaches, elicit unique responses, and reflect a variety of purpose. The exhibit demonstrates how scale can be treated as a key compositional component in a variety of media.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Curatorial Intervention Goes Too Far

The Caravaggio exhibition at the Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome was fabulous … with the exception of the ill-conceived lighting. Perhaps the curators were trying to play off Caravaggio’s trademark “chiaroscuro” when they opted to create their own light & dark effect in presenting the two-dozen works on loan from museums around the world.

The dim ambient light in the rooms could have been effective if the canvases had been evenly lit. Instead, spotlights were trained on the paintings, presumably to highlight specific sections of each work.

Caravaggio’s own treatment of light and color in his work was carefully wrought for compositional balance and narrative clarity. I would have preferred a wash of light that allowed me to take in each composition as a whole, as the artist conceived it, without curatorial contrivance.

Why would the curators feel the need to tamper with … er, augment … Caravaggio’s work?

For some years now there has been a trend in museums to try to make old art more accessible to new audiences. This is not a bad thing: the ability to generate more profit from a special exhibit allows the production of expensive landmark exhibits like the Scuderie exhibition.

But I believe the effort to be misguided, if -- in trying to facilitate the experience for modern audiences – the work becomes even further removed from the context in and for which it was created.

Museum illumination is a fine art in itself … especially for work produced pre-electricity.