Thursday, February 25, 2010

The cheapest word in an expensive business

I recently read the article/interview you see below and was struck by the word "curator". In what way was Shaq the curator for the show at Flag Art Foundation? Perhaps the pass/fail multiple-choice parlor game that was the basis for his curatorial debut makes for interesting locker room chat, but it devalues the term when compared to the actual hard work and long hours done by the scholars museums call curators. While some curators I know would be no stranger to the kind of self-aggrandizing, auto-hagiocracy that Mr. O'Neal seems to enjoy, I think most of them would agree that, whatever noun you might want to use to describe his involvement in the Flag Foundation show, curator would not be the word that comes to mind.

Now despite the fact that this article made my snob gland swell, I'm actually all for a big, inclusive tent in the art world. I think that having celebrities like Mr, O'Neal become part of the art process is at worst harmless, and at best good PR which shines more light on a business that can be seen as only for the intellectual elite. He's certainly entitled to his taste, opinions, and all the access that his wealth brings him. I would never for a moment suggest that he should be excluded, and, on the contrary, I respect his eagerness to explore areas outside of the usual wealthy athlete stereotype. But I wonder if the respect is a two way street. What if David Rockefeller, by virtue of his wealth, decided not only to buy a sports team, but to coach it on a daily basis? His players would be forced to call him "coach", but he would not be a real coach for lack of knowledge, experience, and training. He would get lots of help, suggestions, and support, of course, but then he'd fail in every way possible because he's just not qualified. And Shaq would be the first to cry foul.

So how come some rich athlete gets to walk in a gallery, point his finger at 20 art works, and get called "curator"? Isn't there another word that fills the void more accurately? It seems to me that, considering the incredible amount of wealth at play in the art world, some things come cheap.

Art Curator Shaq Is His Own Masterpiece 

By Linda Yablonsky 

Published Feb 7, 2010

Despite holding down a demanding day job, Cleveland Cavaliers center Shaquille O’Neal has published two memoirs, cut six records, acted in seven movies, starred in a reality show, served as a reserve police officer, and studied for a doctorate in “human resource development.” Now he’s curating “Size DOES Matter,” an exhibition opening February 19 at the Flag Art Foundation in Chelsea. Shaq made 66 selections for the show—which features works ranging from the ginormous (Andreas Gursky’s billboard-size photograph Madonna I) to the microscopic (a Shaq portrait by Willard Wigan)—out of over 200 images that founder Glenn Fuhrman and director Stephanie Roach showed him over dinner after a game.

How did you make your choices?
Art is a process of delivering or arranging elements that appeal to the emotions of a person looking at it. It’s what you feel. I picked those things because they were beautiful. The thing about size—if it’s big or small you have to look at it. Because I’m so big you have to look at me. I think of myself as a monument. But sometimes I like to feel small.

Do you ever get time to visit museums?
I used to go a lot with my kids. Donald Trump is a great friend, and he has four or five Picassos on his plane. And that’s where I would look at them. One time, I was at a museum and tried touching a Picasso. You break it, you buy it, they said. I was told it would cost $2 million.

Have you ever tried painting?
No, but I’ve met a lot of artists who wanted to paint me. LeRoy Neiman was one. He did it from a photograph. He made 20,000 copies, and we sold them all. Now I’m working with the greatest artist in the world, Peter Max.

Do you buy art?
I have six kids, and if they ripped something, I’d be devastated. Maybe when they grow up, I’ll buy. I’d like Ron Mueck [whose Untitled: Big Man appears in the show] to do a sculpture of me. I would like to make it twenty feet tall and put it in the middle of a residential neighborhood—make it two stories high and in the head I’d have my office.

You like people looking at you.
Yeah. When I go to New York I like to stand in the street and see what happens. When you look at a painting and try to figure it out—you look at me [the same way]. Everything in the world is art.

Including basketball?
To me, it’s ballet, hip-hop, and kung fu. The ballet is grace, the hip-hop is cool, and the kung fu is kill the opponent.

Read more: Shaquille O’Neal on Curating the 'Size DOES Matter' Exhibit

1 comment:

  1. And you are surprised at this?
    This is actually an accurate reflection of the modern "art world."
    Publicity is all and content is irrelevant.
    You might also take notice of who wrote this. She is the female counterpart of the other writer of empty art publicity Randy Kennedy.
    One more thing - the Times had an article yesterday on the Jeff Koons' own art collection.
    In due time the whole art world will be like Architectural Digest views of the homes of celebrities - the very stuff that sells AD.