When I saw the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in 2000 I should have been paying more attention to “The Art of the Motorcycle”. The exhibition in the main hall was an exhibition of motorcycles, not modified or customised, just a showroom display. I thought that I was seeing the triumph of corporate design culture over art. Rather this is not about a capitulation of institutional gallery’s reputation that exposes their lack of any educational, aesthetic and moral integrity. The exhibition summed up the attitude of the institution; anything to get the corporate sponsorship, anything to get people through the door.
Different art galleries will tend to exhibit different types of art depending on their objective (see my post on types of art galleries). Some of the crypto-objective of the NGV are now more obvious from its choice of exhibitions — it is all about marketing.
The NGV exists as a high end venue, to sell fashion, market cars (it is the ultimate car showroom in Melbourne), and, most importantly, to be a tourist attraction for the city. The infotainment in a spectacular location to be rented out for corporate and wedding receptions. As such it is little different from the MCG or Flemington Race Course.
The visual arts, like music, is a vast field of styles, techniques and purposes in which there is everything from advertising jingles to some of best things made by humans. There are works that are very popular and make large amounts of money. There are works that can help sell products or make someone look majestic or simply display wealth. High end art can be a manufactured product, the twenty-first century equivalent to handmade lace, very expensive and serving no purpose other than decoration and status. And without political and critical thought the artist remains a decorator for plutocrats.
Granted that there are decorators for plutocrats but that doesn’t mean that they should be exhibited at the NGV or that I should bother to write about them. Selling a lot of product for a lot of money should not be the entry qualification.
I don’t write about art because it is popular or expensive but because there is something worth writing about. So I won’t be writing about any of David Bromley’s, Ken Done’s or KAWS exhibitions. There are a lot of artists whose exhibitions I won’t bother to even attend because the content, aesthetics, style and meaning of their art is so obvious that it bores me. I understand that it doesn’t bore everyone and that some people might want it. However, just because there are is a lot of fans or a lot of money doesn’t make the art any more interesting.
September 21st, 2019 at 1:32 PM
Have you read “Museum Inc.” by Paul Werner? He gets to the crux of the very issue of corporate influence over museums.
September 21st, 2019 at 2:24 PM
Not yet, obviously I should. Thanks for the recommendation.
September 23rd, 2019 at 1:31 AM
My pleasure. He worked as a contractor at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in NYC and there’s a lot of context and content regarding that motorcycle show and the era of blockbuster museum shows.
September 23rd, 2019 at 8:10 AM
Wow. That is so perfectly relevant.
September 21st, 2019 at 1:49 PM
The Bendigo Art Gallery has unfortunately also bought into fashion as art. I had thought this was more to do with generational change at these institutions… now run by women who #sigh think high heels are about empowerment and that unsustainable fashion=art. I hadn’t made the connection with corporate sponsorship…
September 21st, 2019 at 2:28 PM
The corporate sponsorship and the cross-over between exhibition and promotion of a product/fashion label is a troubling aspect for a public institution to be involved in. Public art galleries should be ad and sponsorship free like public broadcasters.
September 22nd, 2019 at 9:25 AM
Well said! The Kaw exhibition is a serious compromise of our public gallery…
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September 22nd, 2019 at 9:41 AM
Thanks, unfortunately the NGV has so few values now to compromise.