In the Fall/Winter of 2023 the Hirshhorn will host a survey of Simone Leigh. She will represent the United States at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2022. This is the best artist they can find to represent the United States of America. What is the real agenda of Biennale?
Daniel Sallick is the Chair of Hirshhorn’s Board of Trustees. He is a long-time political operative in Washington, D. C., he is also a partner and co-founder of Subject Matter, a marketing and lobbing firm. His business website has a one-paragraph bio and four bullet points, one of which is:
Fan of this quote: “I am interested in ideas, not merely visual products.” – Marcel Duchamp
Given that Duchamp was a snarky cynic, neither his ideas nor his art have any meaningful substance, other than he became famous. Perhaps Duchamp gave the blueprint for how crappy artists, with little skill or character, can be successful in the postmodern art world?
The Hirshhorn has an online exhibition, It’s Art If I Say So, honoring Duchamp’s legacy at the museum. https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/its-art-if-i-say-so/
The theme of the exhibition documents artists that are influenced by four Duchampian perspectives: Found Objects, Appropriation, Art As Idea, and Optical Experiments. We can translate those topics:
Found Objects—Street corner junk, re-arranged and placed in a pristine exhibition space. The skill is in the manipulation, but not in creation from scratch.
Appropriation—shamelessly stealing images and ideas from others. No understanding of fundamentals required or wanted. Kind of like, parroting others with no idea what they are feeling or experiencing.
Art As Idea—is a bastardized appropriation of Kant’s concept of the sublime as being formless with a touch of terror to the contemplation of the idea. For instance we see a urinal in a museum space, we think: “piss on art,” and we succeeded in grasping that the urinal becomes art because of the message. Never mind the contradictions in that.
Optical Experiments—are a kind of spectacle that involves optics. Good examples of this are: a pilgrimage of people, each holding a candle going to church; audience of a rock performance using their phone’s flashlight; and of course fireworks. The Hirshhorn’s examples are variations on doing something entertaining that also looks really good as backdrops for the audience’s selfies. But like the candle parade they don’t have anything to do with art, other than in the most basic design element.
In 2019, Sallick was interview by Arts Funders Forum, and he commented that: “Artists help us see that we can lead more aspirational lives.” Very difficult to square that with being a fan of Duchamp. And in 2020 the Hirshhorn purchased this horrendous sculpture, Huma Bhabha, We Come in Peace.
At the end of the interview Sallick says: “My advice for those starting to give to arts and cultural causes is to think about the total value of what you bring to the table and where it can be best deployed for the greatest good. It’s not just about the money; it is about finding a cause you really connect with and opening up your whole network and personal expertise to help that institution succeed.”
But in what way does one get to the greatest good and connect with such pathetic works?
What is a lobbyist doing as the chairman of the Hirshhorn? What is in it for him to push Duchamp’s pathetic aesthetics? Is the agenda to give museum creds to shitty art so that people donating the works can get huge tax write offs? On a psychological level, does showing appalling works give corrupt manipulative people a feeling of justification? So they can say that the whole world is corrupt, if they can get away with it, then so can I?
Contemporary art museums like the Hirshhorn don’t seem to be offering any value to art viewers. Why are the promoting such contemptuous works? Are people like Sallick in it for love?
The best antidotes to cockroaches are to shine a light on them, to use reason to disinfect the place, and replace their feces with evolutionary art.
Michael, Idyllwild, June 14, 2022
Frame of References:
Arts Donor Interview. 10 Questions with Dan Sallick. https://www.artsfundersforum.com/news/interview-dan-sallick
Hirshhorn, Board of Trustees. https://hirshhorn.si.edu/about-us/#about-us
Hirshhorn. Upcoming Simone Leigh. https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/simone-leigh/
Hirshhorn. “IT’S ART IF I SAY SO” Marcel Duchamp’s Legacy in the Hirshhorn Collection https://hirshhorn.si.edu/exhibitions/its-art-if-i-say-so/
Hirshhorn. Reopening the sculpture garden. https://hirshhorn.si.edu/news/press-release/hirshhorn-to-reopen-its-sculpture-garden-aug-17/
Newberry, Michael. Evolution Through Art. https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B095MGMQV7/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i3
Sallick, Dan; Podesta, Heather; and Baer, Josh. Interview. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRIKBWwesQY
Subject Matter Co-Founder, Dan Sallick. https://teamsubjectmatter.com/team/dan-sallick/