The entertainment section of today’s Washington Post has some great news for art lovers:
Representatives from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History are collecting signs and ephemera from Occupy Wall Street and Occupy D.C. for potential exhibitions about the movement. And they have plenty to choose from. New images of the already iconic Occupy signs come across the wires every day.
Wow. I haven’t been this excited since the National Portrait Gallery, also part of the Smithsonian, ran its exhibit of homoerotic art last December during the Christmas—whoops, I mean “winter”—school break. Among the masterpieces to which parents could expose their children was a portrait of a post-crucifixion Jesus covered with ants. (Maybe expose is the wrong verb when referring to an exhibit that featured the “art” of Robert Mapplethorpe.)
But let me not dwell on the past. The newly proposed exhibit could not be more timely. Literally: The Occupy movement is less than two months old. How lucky we are that someone had the vision to dedicate an exhibit to its artistry, in a world-class art museum no less.
I’ve compiled a slideshow of prospective “works,” the first three of which—along with the one appearing on this page—were highlighted by Post art critic Maura Judkis.
To the untrained eye, these signs appear hastily scrawled using crayon or grease pencil. But when you dig beneath the surface, when you focus on the artists’ Fauve-like use of color, the iconoclastic application of chiaroscuro… OK, maybe they are just ordinary hastily scrawled signs. But at least their messages are compelling, no? Take the artwork displayed on this page. Can you not feel the raw emotion? Can you not sense that the artist is very upset?
The Smithsonian is funded in large measure by taxpayer dollars. For fiscal 2011, the institution requested $797.6 million from Congress. To borrow a page from the president’s handbook, maybe it is time to “call and email and tweet and visit” your member of Congress.
UPDATE: You may want to cancel those cards and letters to Congress, at least until the Smithsonian features another exhibit that includes artistic “statements” like the one cited earlier. For now, the museum will not be staging an exhibition of Occupying Wall Street signs, as noted above.
Valeska M. Hilbig, Deputy Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History’s Office of Public Affairs, informs me that the staff has merely “collected a just a few pieces [of OWS memorabilia], as curators have collected from the Obama/McCain Presidential campaigns, the Tea Party rally in March 2010, Glenn Beck’s ‘Restoring Honor’ rally, Jon Stewart’s ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ and most recently from the American Conservative Union’s CPAC in February and from the protests at the Wisconsin state capitol in March.” She adds:
This is part of the Museum’s long tradition of documenting how Americans participate in the life of the nation. The Museum collects from contemporary events because many of these materials are ephemeral and if not collected immediately, are lost to the historical record.
Finally, she notes, “the piece by Maura Judkis your [sic] reference in your article, is solely a product of the Washington Post without consultation of the Museum. The Museum is not soliciting input from the public.”
Come to think of it, you may also want to cancel your subscription to the Washington Post.
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