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November 23, 2012

TT: Kid stuff at the Clark

In today's Wall Street Journal "Sightings" column I take a skeptical look at Giselle's Remix, a museum exhibition "curated" by a child--and at its larger cultural implications. Here's an excerpt.

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Most Americans take it for granted, as well they should, that in a democracy, the experience of going to an art museum should be made more widely accessible. But any museum that starts down the twisty road of cultural democratization can lose sight of its overarching mission, which is to preserve and protect great works of art, make them accessible to the public and teach its visitors how best to look at them. This last involves deploying the institutional expertise of its curatorial staff in the service of defining what it means to call art "great." Yet I've been to more than a few museums whose patrons were so busy dining in the café, listening to noontime concerts and shopping for knick-knacks that scarcely any of them bothered to look at the art on the walls.

Gigi_uCurate_Tour-101-vFinal-Master1-WEB2.JPGHow can established museums reach out to new viewers without compromising their time-honored function? One approach is now being tried out at the the Clark Art Institute of Williamstown, Mass., which has just launched a program called "uCurate." Visitors to the Clark are invited to download a digital app that allows them to design imaginary art exhibitions made up of pieces in the museum's permanent collection, then enter them in a competition whose winners get to install their shows in a gallery at the Clark with the help of the staff.

The Clark's first uCurator is Giselle Ciulla, an 11-year-old girl who has put together a show called "Giselle's Remix" which consists of 18 paintings, sculptures and objets d'art by Corot, Degas, Renoir, Winslow Homer, George Inness and other artists. She has also written the wall labels, of which this one, for Homer's "Sleigh Ride," is representative: "I like how the only thing is the sleigh, like nothing else is alive, just the horse and the rider."

It's easy to see what the Clark, an admirable but decidedly unsexy institution whose conservative collection consists in the main of 19th-century French paintings, is up to. "Giselle's Remix"? "uCurate"? We're talking young here. The program might as well be called "U 2 Can B a Curatr."...

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Read the whole thing here.

Posted November 23, 2012 12:00 AM

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