Artistic License at the Guggenheim Museum
I visited the Guggenheim Museum to explore their artist-curated exhibition, Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection. It was the first-ever show at the museum curated by artists, with a goal to re-envision the works of art owned by the respected cultural institution, from 1900 to 1980. Essentially, each floor of the spiraling Gehry-designed building was dedicated to a separate artist who had the freedom to design their own show, using works from the museum’s permanent collection. The six contemporary artists featured: Cai Guo-Qiang, Paul Chan, Jenny Holzer, Julie Mehretu, Richard Prince, and Carrie Mae Weems.
This exhibition not only nodded to the rich and diverse collection accumulated by the Guggenheim, it also displayed the power of curatorial storytelling. Each artist had access to the same collection, but the results were divergent. They all held individual inspirations and discourses, and by result, reached different conclusions.
I particularly enjoyed the interpretations of Holzer, Mehretu, and Weems. Mehretu focused on the post-war era, when angst & desperation were pervasive, but also when such resulting cognitive confusion generated space for possibility and creation. She deliberately featured many non-European artists and emphasized the paving of a new future. Weems found that the Guggenheim’s collection—particularly before 1980—lacked diversity and wanted to rewrite its history. She cleverly used black & white as a framing device for her presentation. Photographs were a highlight. Holzer exclusively featured female artists. She had the goal to present under-appreciated works and found relevance in art that confronted gender and power structures in visual culture.
The exhibition will be on view until January 12, 2020.
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