In yesterday’s NYTimes, Ken Johnson wrote a review of the current exhibition of Hernan Bas at the Brooklyn Museum. In the end, Ken pointed out a touchy question: How much the cost saving factor impacts the decision of the installation of a retrospective show of an artist who is just getting started ?
Here is the excerpt:
But the museum loses some of its intellectual and ethical credibility in letting the Rubells and their former in-house curator, Mark Coetzee, completely determine an exhibition devoted to an artist whose importance remains speculative. Had the Brooklyn Museum organized its own Hernan Bas exhibition or, better yet, a show examining the trend in faux-adolescent romanticism, these questions wouldn’t come into play.
We have heard the news of museum downsizing such as staff layoff (Indianapollis, Detroit, and Walters) or store closing (met). Under the tight budget, the costly temporary exhibitions would probably cut either in scale or in quantity. I tend to think the Hernan Bas’ exhibition is a natural choice after the exhibition of Gilbert & George. (I wish they could have been exhibited together!) In fact, compared to the compulsive nature of those photos from Gilbert & George, at least Hernan’s paintings feel more humane and sentimental. The museum owns at least one of his painting before the show (“Night Fishing”), so the museum must have considered Hernan as a promising artist and his artworks have met some curatorial standard. If it happens that the installation was paid from private sectors, then why not?
But I agree with Mr. Johnson that such exhibition will never not be tricky. If frequent temporary exhibitions are important venue to attract visitors, then why not seek inside? Brooklyn Museum’s American and Egyptian collection could rival any museum in the country. True, the exhibition may sound antique if the title is “William Merrit Chase and his Long Island” or “John La Farge, the versatile” or any painter buried in Green-wood cemetery, but their collections in terms of dept, subject matters, and time span allow them to come up with some cross-collection exhibition like the intriguing show “The Seduction of Light: Ammi Phillips, Mark Rothko in Pink, Green, and Red” in the American Folk Art Museum. The current show “Unearthing the Truth: Egypt’s Pagan and Coptic Sculpture” is another good example. Just browsing their online database, you will soon find out the quality and the quantity of items “NOT ON VIEW”. Such exhibitions are not only cost efficient but also may bring visitors the awareness of the vast collection of the museum.
The Brooklyn Museum has its own answer. From March 25, Korean-born, New York-based artist Sun K. Kwak will create a site-specific work composed of approximately three miles black masking tape in the fifth-floor. The total cost for the material? 263 dollars based on the article in Brooklyn Paper.