Or not (Museums and the value of art)

Art historian Daniel Seidell speaking at IAM’s Encounter 10:

The Whitney would like you to believe that as an artist you have made it if you are included in the Biennial. I know and have worked with many artists who have participated in this exhibition and it is certainly not the case. But such an exhibition can be a useful means for an artist to develop his or her life project. Or not. But that “or not” is not what The Whitney wants you to consider.

I like his language in this quote, particularly “life project” and “or not.” One thing I would have, in retrospect, liked more of in my college education was perspective. There wasn’t any sense, as I recall, of our starting out on a journey that would indeed last a lifetime. We focused on the present, not thinking about how the sculptures we created in our classrooms marked the inception of a life-long portfolio.

A portfolio that may fall into the “or not” category. It may not be part of renowned shows in prestigious galleries. It may not be featured in contemporary or cutting edge publications. However, it can still be an important part of a cultural landscape.

Seidell goes on to talk about his own experience curating at the Sheldon Art Museum, and how some of the things in the Museum’s storage vault were acquired with great fanfare and are now monetarily worthless, while one small painting that was purchased amidst great protest at the museum is now the most valuable.

His lecture explored how museums and galleries serve as catalysts for cultural transformation.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

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