Last month on a Thursday evening before the holidays, I stood in the middle of the Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, straight-up looking like a high-schooler working on a class assignment (I should probably forgo my trademark neon dunks and $3 plastic red watch when interacting with strangers who aren’t given clues that suggest the contrary…), and asked museum visitors the following two questions:
“Who, in your opinion, is the most overrated contemporary artist?”
“On the flip side, what would you like to see in a major museum or gallery show consisting of contemporary art? What are the kinds of things you’d like to see in major institutions?”
Here’s what they had to say:
(Some survey-ees didn’t answer the first question. Hmmm.)
Would like to see: (R) Anything that is interactive and very real, something you can actually be involved with. It seems like so many things in museums are always “don’t touch” or “steer clear.” Something that you can actually interact with would be kind of cool.
Would like to see: (L) Ancient items. Modern art [tends to be] difficult to understand.
Would like to see: I’m very big on still lifes. A lot of shadows, not a lot of color. Just basic colored pencils or graphites to kind of depict the different values. Something simple that kind of shows the artist’s soul, something very descriptive that can just move a person. Very provocative, very thought-provoking. Not over-done.
(We then proceeded to fawn over literature and poetry.)
(The gentleman requested to have his and his wife’s photograph taken in front of the Thomas Schütte sculpture.)
Overrated: (R) Andy Warhol.
Would like to see: (R) Characteristic pieces right from the pre-historic on up to the 1950s, Rothko, maybe stopping there. A little bit into the early ‘60s, but Rothko was the last one that I really appreciate, although I do like some contemporary pieces.
Overrated: (R) Andy Warhol. He’s talented, but so many people want to read so much into it because it’s just so easy to digest and because it’s Pop Art, you know? So people want to be like, “Oh that guy’s unbelievable.” And he’s good. I mean, there are parts of it that I do like, but you’ve seen it so many times.
Would like to see: (R) I’m always a really big fan of photorealism. It’s not like it’s the most amazing form of art, but I don’t see a ton of it in art museums. And I do like abstraction—big Kandinsky fan.
(We all subsequently geeked out over the museum’s Arms & Armor section. They proposed a “modern update” to make it even better.)
Overrated: Those kinds of paintings that are just one color on a canvas. I don’t know the specific artist, but where it’s just two colors, and I’m like, “I could’ve done that.”
Would like to see: More textiles. Textiles are my favorite.
Overrated: (L) I would say Cy Twombly.
(R) Peter Max.
Would like to see: (R) Impressionism.
(L) I kind of like the modern art. I’m getting to appreciate it. It reflects this time that we’re living in right now. Just like with the Impressionists, I’m quite certain that, in their times, people didn’t accept what they were doing.
Overrated: I’m a little underwhelmed with a lot of the Walker in Minneapolis. Like the landlord collection, John [Waters] or something like that. I just didn’t understand it at all.
Would like to see: Photography.
A little more of a throwback to adding more styles of old, more Renaissance, mixed with new mediums. I just don’t see any of that. It’s strictly new and it’s so avant garde that I’d like a mix of media.
As a bonus, I also surveyed the buddy who got me into the museum for free… (Thanks, Kris!)
Overrated: Damien Hirst. That guy’s bullshit. I also think Banksy’s very overrated.
Would like to see: It’d be more interesting for the major museums and galleries to at least give some space and time to people who aren’t necessarily selling a lot of stuff. Don’t get me wrong; you’re going to get a lot of crap, but that’s always true. Everything’s mostly crap, but eventually you might find something good in the crap. These boards tend to be the same sort of people everywhere. They sell themselves on what’s good and what isn’t, so it’s an echo chamber, so you always get what somebody in that group says is cool, and then everybody wants to seem cool so they go along with it. Getting something outside of that would be nice, and that could be anything from… I don’t want to say “outsider art,” because I think that got really clichéd for a bit, but there’s stuff being done that isn’t being seen by people—not because they’re outsiders, but because it’s hard to get an audience. So I’d like to see some new stuff. I’ll fully admit most of it will probably be garbage, but every once in a while something will be cool.
Anyone you agree with? Anyone you’d like to vehemently debate? Any other artists you’d like to add to the list? Any other kinds of art you love and wish more people loved?
Also, because of all this
shit-talking, Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst are now turning up in my Gmail ads. Goddamnit, Google.