Writing Archive

Arty Party: The art exhibit as circus is fun, but don't be fooled by what you see

letter of comment in the Miami New Times, September 12, 2002

Regarding Anne Tschida's article "Artburst" (August 29), what Robert Chambers does is needed, unfortunately. Art can be difficult to appreciate, but everyone understands entertainment and parties. Chambers's talent as a curator is to throw big, entertaining parties with art in them. So when something like "globe>miami>island" happens, people don't have much to say about the work in it but everyone is thrilled about the attendance at the opening reception. There is an energy and excitement in the air that wasn't there before. This is better than lethargy and boredom, so one has to conclude that the scene is improving.

The party approach to exhibitions benefits art that most resembles entertainment -- art with simple messages, in-your-face attitude, bright colors, motors, movement, flashing lights, noisemakers, quirky styling, shock value, enigmatic posturing, and ambitions limited to amusement or titillation. Thus it tends to be lightweight, if not downright inane. The problem is that art at its best is not mere entertainment, just as it is not mere decoration for the bare patch of wall over your sofa.

Eventually the buzzing atmosphere that Chambers helps to generate will also benefit good, lasting art. If Miami's art world is like a balloon, that atmosphere is the hot air that will lift it. But for the time being, a lot of what art lovers are seeing in this town is hot air.

Word count: 227

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