Adrian Piper, Alphonse Lami, Breuer, High Line, Jeffrey Koons, Madam Tussaud, Met Museum, MetMuseum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York City, Sokari Camp, Whitney, Whitney Museum
Most of us at this point are scratching our heads at what the Met wants to accomplish in acquiring the Breuer.
Its first shows seemed like an attempt to be yet another modern art museum.
But that got shot down immediately by the Whitney’s brilliant reinvention of itself as a true anchor of the phenomenally popular High Line – which in turn has incubated an entirely new luxury coastal community of condos with water view. It has finally discovered the true mission of its founders: to be New York’s celebration of modern art.
And MoMA’s first full-floor show of Adrian Piper’s life as works of art is but a preview of their building immensely new capabilities right on 53rd Street.
No, “breathtaking” is an adjective owned by these two office holders of the Modern Art position – at least in New York.
And the current show Life Like reveals more clearly where the Met’s strengths lie, and how it intends to flex its curatorial muscle.
“Comprehensive” is the descriptor that comes to mind. As in its recent shows this is clearly where the Met excels. Fleshing out the show’s Life Like theme creates an exhibit that feels like a walk in the park.
All eras, all approaches to sculpting the human form appear here – from Jeffrey Koons to Madam Tussaud. Including Alphonse Lami’s skinless reveal-all Man and the first-ever excursion outside the UK of University College London’s Jeremy Bentham’s clothing hung on his actual skeleton.
In fact the only odd note is the Nigerian artist Sokari Camp’s caricature figures which are like a solo act out at an otherwise consistently diverse vaudevillian conclave.
The question remains for the Met – especially now that they’re charging full freight from non-New Yorkers can being the art world’s attic become a mission, a clarion call to revisit Art one mo’ time? The answers the Met appears to have chosen are increasingly Entertainment and Education.
The increasingly British bent of the Met’s curators both in their origins and in their increasingly didactic tendencies obvious by the time one gets by the second or third gallery. The reasons for works being included in the show is made at times all too clear.
Education may sit well in their board room, and certainly is popular with their powerfully endowed curatorial staff – but entertainment? in one of the entertainment centers of the world?
The NY Times reviewer of the Life Like show, Roberta Smith, – https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/22/arts/design/like-life-sculpture-review-met-breuer.html – wonders aloud at the end of her review whether the Met is hereby launching an “at-home version of the international biennial, something with the combination of buzz, entertainment and historical seriousness that appeals to all levels of art appreciation, pro and layman.”
I disagree. Biennial-type shows draw from horizontally – from current times – whereas the Met draws vertically each step of the way, and often with side by side comparisons and contrasts. Biennial shows offer breadth; the Met offers depth. Besides, the Whitney’s biennial shows almost inevitably flopped or at most elicited uproars. It’s probably best that the Met stick to its own knitting and make the most of its best – and its best is that it has riches of the past beyond any other art mecca in the world.