Lauren Viera's puff-piece about
the Richard Gray Collection
in the Chicago Tribune last week,
got me to regret
my earlier positive response.
"There's so much to see — so much good stuff to see — it's almost dizzying."
Really? I beg to differ.
But I do agree that
"Name a famous artist, any famous artist, and he or she probably has work on display at the Art Institute right this very moment."
And that's the problem with how this gallerist has both bought, sold, and collected art.
Consider the two Tiepolo drawings from this exhibit, for example.
In the world of European pen and wash drawing,
Tiepolo's floating madonnas
are the gold standard.
And the one above
But here's the other one
from the Gray collection.
It has all of the components of the first,
but they're in a jumble,
instead of a sweet melody.
If both are authentic,
that would be of small concern
to those who collect art
as trophies or capital investments.
And that attitude
would explain the presence
of so many awkward Baroque drawings
in the Gray Collection.
The issue of collector-based
(as vanity shows)
has been raised several times
this year by
and Christopher Knight .
Like Steven Thompson ,
I've been inclined to defend them.
Because if I enjoy even one piece
in an exhibition,
I am grateful for the opportunity
to have seen it.
it's been my experience
that professional curators
are no more likely to please me
than wealthy collectors have been.
Would the elimination of collector shows
the number of beautiful or important
things to see?
Unless proponents of that policy
can confidently answer that question
in the afirmative,
they should think of other ways
to improve exhibition quality.
But I suspect their primary concern
is context --
i.e. the theory-based context of a curator
is preferable to the taste-based
context of a collector.
Or as one curator (Catherine Hess) put it:
""There has to be a real compelling reason to show a group of objects to the public beyond who collected them," ... "There has to be a story to be told."
And I don't really care about curator stories,
or why the things put into an exhibit
because that does not change
how they look.
Most of the Gray collection
is worthless as far as I'm concerned.
But some of it has been quite memorable,
and I'm really doubting
that I would ever have had the chance to see them
"Old Gray" had been given
this "vanity show"