Art Vent

Letting the Fresh Air In

Olafur Eliasson

April 17, 2008 - 7:54am -- Carol Diehl

“The rainbow I see is not the rainbow you see”—rants about museum wall text and artists' statements come from a strong belief, derived initially from my study of Robert Irwin and his work, in the experience of art being unmediated and individual--that art which truly fulfills its purpose as art, requires no explanation. Olafur Eliasson, who I have also written about extensively, follows in Irwin’s footsteps and takes it one step further, viewing everything--from the publicity around an exhibition and the expectations it raises, to whatever personal interactions occur in the museum as well as the physical situation itself (including temperature, sound, and the presence of other people)--as contributing to the experience of the art. As he said yesterday at the press preview for his mid-career survey, which opens Sunday at MoMA and PS1: “I don’t want to interpret the work for you. My interpretation is not your interpretation.”

His pieces are not accompanied by wall text.


This is very refreshing. The Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, in the new David Adjaye designed building that opened this autumn, has made a strong statement against the tyranny of the wall text with a non didactic approach. They are suggesting 5 supplements to the art which you can pick up at the entry ( or not if you wish to just walk through). Each supplement: music on an ipod, postcards you can sketch on, cards with info on the artists etc are not intended to "explain" the art but to add to your personal experience of the art. You can also visit a library where the exhibiting artists have selected objects, including books, dvds and other materials that they enjoy and may have influenced their art.

Charlie Finch wrote a "The Emperor Has No Clothes" type of review for this exhibition. He concludes, "The camp of Eliasson is the camp of anti-concentration, an annihilation of all that is pleasurable, a complete nullification of art. That he is celebrated at all demonstrates that from the Museum of Modern Art to City Hall and beyond, we are ruled by fools."

Well, maybe Charlie was just pissed about what he called the "urine" colored lighting. LOL! Might be his most brutal assessment of an artist since the Richart Prince retrospective at the Guggenheim. I honestly don't know much about Eliasson- mainly what I've seen in photos. But I guess he's like James Turrell- you need to experience it to truly appreciate it, pictures and words just ain't gonna cut it.

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