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Everything's comin' up poseurs
In Paris at the turn of the 20th it was common to demand payment for an art review. A negative review cost more: to write a bad review the reviewer had to have seen the art. A negative review demands skill, and knowledge, and dedication. You can thank me later.
Announcements are out for the Fall shows. Most haven’t opened yet, so we can be reasonably sure the critics haven’t seen them; in many cases we can be reasonably suspicious they won’t have seen them afterward, either, because the reviews are going to sound exactly like the previews. This is what’s called “Rip n’ Read:” previews and reviews are lifted from the press releases. “Rip n’ Read,” by the way, is my pet name for the critic couple Roberta Smith and Jerry Saltz.
Perhaps I, too, should get paid for what I write; but it would be WRONG, because then I’d feel honor-bound to write a negative review, since that’s what I’d been paid for. And since I’d have to see the show in order to hate it, I’d be committed to my view like all the others. What if I wrote a positive review and they wanted their money back?
Besides, I don’t review the art alone, I review the show. Does it correspond to the press release? It rarely does. Are the curators sneaking something past the trustees? They often do. How does the audience react? How do the guards react to the audience? As a rule I don’t review a show until I’ve seen it twice.
Here are a few shows that may be worthwhile in the months ahead. Maybe I’ll go and maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll have something to say, as I usually do. Maybe I’ll write it down, which I should do more often. Maybe I’ll go back and write an article. Maybe I’ll share it, no charge. My Fall list falls into four categories: 1] shows I’ve seen already to which I’m not returning; 2] shows I’ve seen, to which I am; 3] shows I haven’t seen but that might be worth seeing, and those are the shows I’m curious about: do they raise interesting questions, or are they no more than the press release? Finally, 4] shows I haven’t seen and don’t intend to, shows it gives me no pleasure to attend; also shows I haven’t seen and that I know from long experience to be crap. They can’t pay me enough for this. Oh, right.
The Clamor of Ornament: Exchange, Power, and Joy from the Fifteenth Century to the Present. Drawing Center, 35 Wooster Street, New York. Through September 18, 2022. https://drawingcenter.org/exhibitions/clamor-of-ornament
First show I’ve seen that looks like a spinoff from a Twitter account. Yes, the works look pretty. So what?
Fictions of Emancipation. Carpeaux Recast. Metropolitan Museum of Art, through March 5, 2023. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/carpeaux-recast
I sense a few people on the Board of Trustees—maybe a couple of curators as well— are not happy with the premiss. Problem is, the premiss isn’t backed by the works, classic and well known (and ambiguous) representations of Black people straight out of The Image of the Black in Western Art, vol. 4, part 2. Go for the experience, stay for the ambiguity, coming more from the visitors than the curators.
New York: 1962 – 1964. Jewish Museum, 5th Avenue at 92nd Street, through January 8, 2023. https://thejewishmuseum.org/exhibitions/new-york-1962-1964
A must see. I’ll tell you why next week.
Noble Virtues: Nature as Symbol in Chinese Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art. Through January 29, 2023. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/noble-virtues
On the minus side: they’ve taken down the Dong Xichang scroll before I had a chance to write it up. On the plus: should be a few good pieces by Bada Shanren.
The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England. Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 10, 2022–January 8, 2023. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/tudors
AKA Wonders of the Tudors. Will the works on display be treated as mere sideshows to the “real” Renaissance? Or will the show pick up on all the quirkiness attendant to late Tudor culture? Knowing this particular department at the Met, my hopes are not high.
Lives of the Gods: Divinity in Maya Art. Metropolitan Museum of Art, November 21, 2022–April 2, 2023. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/gods-divinity-maya-art
As the recipient of a sliver of obsidian from a Maya site I am bound by honor to slice my penis and twirl around in a grass skirt so my blood can be collected and burnt with scented copal as an offering to the gods. Okay if I just write a review?
Manet/Degas. Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 25, 2023–January 7, 2024. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2023/manet-degas
Yet another instance of Repressionism? Or will this one deal with that which Manet and Degas have most in common, their dangerous liaison with the unspoken in the symbol?
Meret Oppenheim My Exhibition. Museum of Modern Art, October 30, 2022-March 4, 2023. https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/5368
The MoMA’s such an unpleasant place to visit (and to work) that I usually think twice about going. In this case I’m only gonna think once. On the one hand: I’ve seen Teacup; on the other: who wants to be the one who says, “Oh, yeah, Teacup?”
Barbara Kruger. Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. Museum of Modern Art. Through Jan 2, 2023. https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/5394
I mean, No Way. Grad school stuff when I was in grad school. It’s still grad school and I’m not.
Watch this space. I’ll keep this article at the top of my substack homepage and update as fit. As Orson Welles might have said in his mercenary moments, "We will review no show [aaah] ... until its time."