Thursday, April 16, 2009

Museum Review: MASS MoCA

MASS MoCA, or the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, is located in the erstwhile mill town of North Adams. My most recent trip was my second to the museum, so now of course I consider myself an expert and will therefore grace the world with my opinions. Most of the installations were different from those of a year ago, which brings us to one of the key truths about modern art: it is kind of temporary. During my visit to the area, I also spent time at other museums with more traditional collections (Impressionists, Renaissance, etc.), and would never expect them to deinstall/decommission/destroy the art because its time in the museum was finished. If it disappeared at all, it would probably be because some other museum somewhere was doing a retrospective on Monet's cathedral paintings, and they were trying to collect all the examples they could find.

Self Portrait In Modern Art (click to enlarge)

I saw a variety of installations, including some high-powered "conceptual" art and a few individual pieces that induced hearty eye-rolls. I did enjoy the crucified narwhal, though. I mourned the absence of the Spencer Finch exhibit which had made such a positive impression on my first visit. I took the opportunity on this second visit to consider the question of art itself, and modern art in particular--the jury is still out on that one. Anyway, the collection at MASS MoCA is definitely worth seeing with the aid of a handy Museum Pass, which can be checked out from the North Adams library with the assistance of a C/W MARS library card in good standing. I must confess, however, that my favorite part of the museum is actually the building(s), converted from industrial use to what almost seems an ideal new purpose. The vast space couldn't be utilized more perfectly than to house giant silver blobs and folded concrete monstrosities. My second favorite part of the museum is its (hopefully) unique approach to sponsorship. Most of us are accustomed, during this age of corporate sponsorship, to hearing of the Ford Keys to the Game, or the Pepsi Home Run Challenge. And this trend is also visible in cultural institutions--park benches, bricks, rooms, and conference centers have all been known to bear the names of worthy donors. However, nowhere else have I ever seen an endowed Emergency Exit.

The Rachel and Jay Tarses Emergency Exit

I have not even touched on the subject of the Leslie Gould Lightwell. The burning question remains: How large a donation is required to procure the naming rights to your own emergency exit?


Art: B-
Buildings: A+
Price: A
Parking: A
Elevators: B+ (some of them are large enough for giant sculptures, and that makes it easier for me to ride them)
Cafe: B
Gift Store: B-

Overall Grade: A-

Random Thoughts:

Another feature of modern art that doesn't really resonate with me: the preponderance of video screens and noise. Why must everything be displayed on a screen? Do artists really think we have a spare 45 minutes to watch their video journey? We have other museums to see, people!

1 comment:

Cassandra Mortmain said...

Thought 1: for some reason, even though I am officially following you, my google reader has not been notifying me of your posts. Silly thing.

Thought 2: I am quite fond of your self portrait and I am OUTRAGEOUSLY EXCITED to see you in JUST ONE WEEK. It's going to be so awesome!!