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Shark Alert at the Met!

Installation View of Damien Hirst’s “The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living,” Kunsthaus Bregenz
Last October in the NY Times, Carol Vogel wrote this about Damien Hirst‘s “replacement” shark, owned by megacollector Steve Cohen:
Rumors have circulated in the art world that Mr. Cohen has promised the work [“The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”] to the Museum of Modern Art. But Mr. Cohen said that he had made no plans to donate the work to the Modern and that he is unsure exactly where he will put it when the tank arrives in Connecticut.
”Ultimately I think it’s a piece that needs to be put in a major museum,” he said. ”I’ve had discussions with some, but I can’t say which ones, and nothing has been decided.”

Now rumors are swirling that it’s going to be shown at (and perhaps acquired by) the Metropolitan Museum. It recently returned to these shores from an exhibition, “Re-Object,” that closed in May at the Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (above).
Sandy Heller, Cohen’s art advisor, said he could not comment, other than to say that the piece would be “fantastic at the Met. It would be amazing.”
A highly placed Met official with whom I spoke yesterday (and who is in a position to know) could have refused comment or denied the rumor. Instead, the official requested my phone number, ostensibly to get back to me later about whether the Met was circling the shark. (I’m still waiting onshore.) The Met’s press office, to which I sent an inquiring e-mail, hasn’t yet taken the bait.
Cohen and the Met were co-purchasers of an important Rauschenberg, “Winter Pool,” 1959, displayed at the museum’s “Robert Rauschenberg: Combines” exhibition last year.
But hooking this cumbersome catch could be against the better judgment of the Met’s director, Philippe de Montebello, who on Oct. 5, 1999 wrote a NY Times Op-Ed piece (which seems to have disappeared from its website), “Making a Cause Out of Bad Art,” which complimented then Mayor Rudolph Giuliani for his “aesthetic sensibilities” in bashing the Brooklyn Museum’s “Sensation” show. Hirst’s toothy predator was arguably that provocative show’s centerpiece, although Giuliani preferred to do battle not with the shark but with Chris Ofili‘s “Holy Virgin Mary.”
Perhaps Philippe has now learned to smile at “Jaws.” (Pass the formaldehyde.) Do you think that MoMA’s well-heeled trustees would settle for a diamond skull?

an ArtsJournal blog