What's On | January 2012


Spies in the House of Art

Spies in the House of Art

Main Image: Thomas Struth (German, b. 1954) | The Restorers at San Lorenzo Maggiore, Naples, 1988 | Chromogenic print 119.1 x 159.7 cm (46 7/8 x 62 7/8 in.) | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel; Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts; Jennifer Saul Gift; Gift of Dr. Mortimer D. Sackler, Theresa Sackler and Family; and Gary and Sarah Wolkowitz Gift, 2010 (2010.121) © Thomas Struth


Artists are the secret constituency of museums, inspired and challenged not only by the objects and collections they display but also by the spaces in which they are shown and the authority they represent. Most artists aspire to see their works in museums, even if they joke among themselves about how museums are mausoleums, places where art goes to die. In telling stories about how and why art gets made, museums provide a ready-made foil for artists to react against and clarify their own positions.


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Francesca Woodman (American, 1958–1981) | The Temple, 1980 | Diazo collage  457.2 x 304.8 cm (180 x 120 in.) approximately The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of George and Betty Woodman, 2001 (2001.737) © Estate of Francesca Woodman


This selection of photography, film, and video from the permanent collection surveys the various ways museums inspire the making of works of art. A museum can be the setting for a new work or provide the raw material for creations that build upon a previous aesthetic experience. The camera can highlight the estrangement of objects from their original functions, unlock from a straitlaced decorousness of display the desires—libidinal or otherwise—that engendered the objects in the first place, or make visible the imaginative projection that underlies much looking at art. At a time when the automatic reflex of a technologically harried and distracted museum visitor may be to point and shoot, capture and move on, these works suggest the benefit of stepping back, reflecting, and lingering.


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Nashashibi / Skaer [Rosalind Nashashibi (British, b. 1973) and Lucy Skaer (British, b. 1975)] Flash in the Metropolitan, 2006 (film still) 16mm film; 3 min., 25 sec.; color; silent | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Vital Projects Fund Inc. Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2010 (2010.403) © Rosalind Nashashibi and Lucy Skaer

In an unprecedented commingling of old and new works, Andrea Fraser's video Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk (1989) will be exhibited alongside paintings by William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Alexandre Cabanel, and Franz Xaver Winterhalter in Gallery 809 within the Galleries of Nineteenth-Century, Modern, and Contemporary Art, around the corner from the main installation. A complementary installation of a dozen photographs from the medium's beginnings to the early 1970s will be on view through May 6 in Gallery 850.


Spies in the House of Art | The Metropolitan Museum | 7 Feb - 26 Aug 2012







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