My brother and I went to the Weisman Museum at the University of Minnesota and the Walker Art Center. AFSCME is on strike at the U at the moment. However, I did not see a picket line at the museum; and we didn’t spend any money inside. I probably should not have gone, but my brother wanted to see the museum.
I like the Weisman. There was a show of contemporary Chinese photography, which was interesting, since it focused on how the lives of ordinary Chinese are changing; and part of the permanent collection was on display, works from the 1920s on.
The Walker was less interesting. A big show had just closed, and the next big show — Frida Kahlo — has not opened. So we looked at works from the permanent collection. Most of it seemed fairly recent, done in the past 20 or 30 years. I stopped paying attention to contemporary museum art in the 1970s. My brother has kept better track. But too much of the work in the Walker seemed conceptual rather than sensual, and the concepts did not interest me.
Too much contemporary art is designed to be seen in galleries or museums. It is large, because it’s meant to be in a large space; and it is designed to make an immediate impact, because the viewers will move on after a minute or two. So there is not a lot of depth and subtlety and complexity.
I like art I can imagine in my house: fairly small and complex enough so I could look at it every day and not get bored.
We then went on to Indigo, a wonderful store in north Minneapolis which carries Asian and African art: amazing stuff, bowls woven out of colored telephone wire, carved wooden replicas of coke bottles, Japanese ceramics, antique jewelry and furniture. I bought a small metal metal bird from Ghana and looked at Tuareg earrings.
We talked about the Walker with one of the owners. He said the Walker’s attendance has been going down and down, and museums should be devoted to dead artists. This is not a bad idea. It would force artists to make work for ordinary people, and it would mean that museums would have time to judge work. Rather than chasing the latest trend, they would be looking at an artist’s entire oeuvre, his or her place in art history.