Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The opening everybody's NOT talking about . . .
With a wicked nod to desperate precedent - a famous "show" of contemporary art in the MFA men's room in 1971 (at left) - local artists will be sneaking in to install their own work in the spiffy latrines below the new atrium courtyard in "Flush with the Walls," a "renegade" show which opens - well, right about now, 7 pm on June 15, precisely forty years after that first exhibit. How long the show will last is anybody's guess. But hopefully its brevity won't reduce its influence - after all, the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art is scheduled to open in September; who knows what local artists may find themselves still hanging at the MFA, only in a more public location? For those of you who can't make it this evening, I've been told the exhibition will also include "a fully illustrated historical commemorative catalogue, subtitled Bathroom Reading." Too funny.
[Update: Well, as I guessed, the show didn't last too long! Provocateur/crypto-anarchist/art-nerd sweetheart Greg Cook had only just concluded his welcoming remarks to the assembled crowd (of maybe two dozen people, squeezed into the corridor to the bathrooms outside the Chihuly show) when security descended, ostensibly to clear the hallway.
A reasonable excuse, but in a matter of moments the MFA's minions had invaded the bathrooms and begun to tear the art down from the walls - and none too carefully, either. I protested; sure, the crowd had to go, but couldn't the art stay up? (The artists had thoughtfully NOT posted anything in the stalls, as they had in 1971; the art was confined to the sink counters and vestibule, for the protection of everyone's privacy!) The guards just gave me that look that reads "Don't make me be a jerk, okay?," and when another gallery-goer tried to video the dismantling of the exhibit, he was told to put his phone away, because "It's a federal offense to take photographs in a restroom, sir." Oh, dear, Dorothy, I suppose we can't go against the law, can we! So the exhibit was down in a matter of moments, and the crowd unhappily, but still genially, dispersed.
The art I caught a glimpse of was poignant in its simplicity - a sketch of the Mona Lisa on a paper towel was typical. (I didn't notice any artists' names on the pieces.) The show exuded a crunchy - or maybe crusty - idealism that defiantly refused to die despite the determination of the MFA marketing juggernaut to ignore it. Meanwhile, the museum-goers who pushed their way through the proceedings looked confused but seriously miffed, in the manner of Disney patrons who find a Greenpeace protest is ruining their visit to the Magic Kingdom. Or was that impression due to the Willy-Wonka-esque fantasia of the Dale Chihuly show next door? Oh, well - who knows. Somebody bring on Veruca Salt!]