Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Undermining the Museum

Kara Walker's monumental sumi ink drawing, The Pool Party of Sardanapalus (after Delacroix, Kienholz) (2017) is now on view at MOCA. While the artist intended different atrocities, it's possible to read it as an allegory of a troubled museum. Philippe Vergne fired chief curator Helen Molesworth over "creative differences." That's being read as market-validated white male artists v. women and artists of color.

Pool Party is a cartoon massacre of white males by black females. It inverts (by gender and ethnicity) a less violent 2015 incident in at a public pool in Texas while invoking the ultraviolence of Ed Kienholz's Five Car Stud (1972) and Delacroix's The Death of Sardanapalus (1827).

In 2016 Molesworth told The Art Newspaper:

"The only way you get diversity is to actually do it. That means that certain men don’t get shows. There are only X number of slots every year on the calendar and the number of artists always exceeds the number of slots. If you are going to be equitable, some of the dudes don’t get shows that year. That’s what’s hard about it."

It's being assumed that Molesworth's candor, and math, was too much for Vergne and the MOCA board. Not in doubt is that MOCA has become a meaningless tragedy (yet again). Thus far Vergne's signature accomplishment has been hiring Molesworth. It's hard to imagine what he now can do for a follow-up.

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