Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

form vs. function at the Guggenheim


This article in Hyperallergic critiqued the current (and soon ending) exhibition at the Guggenheim Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today. The author points out that three very strong pieces in the show are not given the attention or ‘spotlight’ that they deserve, and that this oversight is a result of the structure of the museum itself.

The author claims that three video pieces by Tania Bruguera of Cuba, Regina José Galindo of Guatemala, and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz of Puerto Rico are ‘nearly obliterated’ by the physical constraints of the Guggenheim.

I have never been to the Guggenheim, so as I read the article I tried to wonder how a contemporary art museum could thwart the very work it displays through its own structure. I looked up this description from the Guggenheim’s own website that illustrated the unique design more clearly: like a nautilus shell, the exhibition space is a spiral from top to bottom.

As the author says, the very premise of the show is staggering in terms of the size of the geographic and thematic range. The show is representing such a wide range of artists, issues, and themes, and you could say that the museum has an ethical duty to the artists to represent them to the best of their ability. But what if it isn’t within the ability of the Guggenheim to showcase some of these artists in the best way possible?

This is what the author claims has happened with the three video pieces, which ironically, deal with issues of representation, identity, and freedom of speech.

This article reminded me a lot of Andrew’s presentation about multimedia cultural centers and ‘different animals, not bigger animals’. The issue here isn’t how the Guggenheim has altered, but how the experience of certain artworks have been altered because of their display in the Guggenheim. Though it is a prestigious cultural and educational institution, the author makes a strong case that the video pieces would be much better served in a different kind of space. I wonder if the Guggenheim considered this when they were preparing for the show? With their unique structure, they had to have had many instances of display conflicts in the past. Do you think art museums should still attempt to mount a show if they are aware that their platform might not be the best for the artists’ interest?

Just some things I”m thinking about. You should read the article to learn more about the video pieces- they’re very interesting!

p.s.- one more monkey. Not a bigger animal, just a more stylish one.

Canada-Wandering Monkey


3 comments on “form vs. function at the Guggenheim

  1. zeniasimpson
    October 1, 2014

    The Guggenheim certainly has limitations, but it’s unique architecture has served as a way for artist to express themselves in ways they wouldn’t be able to in another architectural space. Contemporary video artist Matthew Barney created the most expensive video artwork to date, the Creamaster Cycle in the Guggenheim. In his video he climber the structure and spiraled around his strange world he built within the space equipped with costumes and props. During the 80’s when institutional critique was big, an artist hung a sheet from the ceiling of the museum blocking the view of the other side of sphere. To me, the way a work is exhibited is important in it’s reception, however the things that may limit one work my enhance another.

  2. hshambroom
    October 1, 2014

    To me it seems like the main problem with this show is not the Guggenheim’s architecture or space, which, despite criticism, many would argue is in itself a work of art, but in the scope of this particular exhibit. A major component of curating is deciding what not to include, and if these video pieces are pivotal to contemporary Latin American it sounds like their current placement in the show is doing them a disservice. I think another contributor to the problem is that video art is a relatively new medium being shown in major museums, and curators still struggle with how best to show it. The above mention of Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle is an extremely successful example of a curated video piece, proving that the Guggenheim does seriously consider video pieces and can use their space effectively, so it is unfortunate that in this particular exhibit the architecture does not compliment the works.

  3. carolynsupinka18
    October 1, 2014

    The Cremaster series is great! And it works especially well with the structure of the Guggenheim. I was not questioning whether the Guggenheim itself is a good platform for art or a work of art itself, just whether this particular exhibition was shown to its best advantage in the structure, and how the museum (and other such museums) might evaluate this in their exhibition planning.

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This entry was posted on September 30, 2014 by .
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