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BlogBack: Chris Crosman, Founding Curator of Crystal Bridges, on Museums’ Billboard Barrage

Ready for her close-up? Catherine Opie, "Self-Portrait/Cutting," 1993, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Ready for her blow-up? One billboard candidate is: Catherine Opie, “Self-Portrait/Cutting,” 1993, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Chris Crosman, founding curator of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (who left there at the end of 2011), responds positively to my negative tweet from Apr. 6 about the Art Everywhere intiative, sponsored by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

Intended in part to help bolster the foundering billboard industry, that campaign will feature 50 blow-ups of American art from five U.S. museums—the Dallas Museum of Art (whose director, Max Anderson, is the program’s lead spokesperson), Art Institute of Chicago, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art and Whitney Museum. Chosen by public vote from 100 artworks, the images will be plastered on billboards (not to mention “street furniture, transit hubs, and many other channels,” according to the program’s announcement).

Here’s my tweet:


Here’s Crosman’s take on it:

Frankly, these billboards trivialize art; there is a fine line between the populist impulse to make art accessible to the masses and a kind of arrogance that reduces serious art works to tropes of popular culture.

Crystal Bridges has (had?) a huge billboard depicting a “sound suit” by Nick Cave. I believe they got his permission, but whizzing by at 75 mph the image is illegible and demeaning to the artist’s sincere efforts at audience participation and inclusiveness.

Moreover, Arkansas bills itself as “The Natural State” on its license tags and elsewhere (billboards?). How does that square with blocking the view of nature–and distracting drivers–every few hundred feet on their Interstate system and other highways?

I’m not rabid about these things but do feel that hypocrisy, especially as increasingly practiced by museums, needs to be called out—as you have already done.

Have the living artists represented in this campaign—also including (in addition to Catherine OpieJasper Johns, Chuck Close, Cindy Sherman, Kerry James Marshall—been consulted about whether they want to be party to this visual pollution?

an ArtsJournal blog