Lisa Phillips annoucing the New Museum Triennial yesterday
Memo to Lisa Phillips: Please change this title while there’s still time! While you’re at it, consider changing the exhibition concept as well.
At a press breakfast yesterday, Lisa Phillips (above), director of the New Museum, New York, proudly announced next spring’s planned opening of a triennial exhibition devoted to international emerging artists. The title occasioned one of those “Did she really say that?” moments. But there it was—in big letters on an otherwise blank screen:
So after the presentation, I had to ask: “Why that title?”
Because he [Jesus] changed things more than anyone before the age of 33.
“Younger than Vincent” might have been a useful, art-related reference to someone of high achievement who died young. But that might have invited invidious critical comparisons between van Gogh’s sunflowers and the current crop. For those of other faiths, the Christ-oriented title is apt to be off-putting. And I’d imagine that even some Christian museumgoers may feel uneasy about likening the impact of emerging artists (some undoubtedly more profane than sacred) to that of their savior.
I also found it hard to accept the other premises underlying this enterprise, as elucidated by Phillips: that 33-and-under artists have been neglected by the artworld (what about all those Raiders of the MFA Art?); and that the defining characteristic of the new generation is that it grew up with the Internet. Don’t 20-somethings have significant experiences away from the computer?
Another defining concept, Phillips said, was the “collapse of globalization: There are huge cultural divides all over the world,” she noted…except, it would seem, on the World Wide Web and in the gospel according to “Jesus,” which will explore “how artists belonging to the same age group can develop similar interests and express similar concerns across geographies and nationalities.” That sounds pretty global to me.
With the Whitney Biennial (which does not limit itself to new talent) experiencing less hostility in its recent outings, New York needs a new show that it “loves to hate.” “Jesus” might be just the ticket. We can only hope that the Spring 2012 triennial will bring us the much anticipated sequel: “Older Than Methuselah.”
Meanwhile, my recent viewings of the New Museum’s about-to-open After Nature (“a future landscape of wilderness and ruins”), MASS MoCA’s similarly themed but less grim Badlands (“works that look beyond vast beauty to address current environmental issues”) and the Museum of Modern Art’s new exhibition of prefab houses (with an emphasis on spartan efficiency and sustainability for a planet in peril) make me feel like we’re mired in a WALL-E moment: This is the way the world ends—not with a meteor, but with our detritus.