Wednesday, July 23, 2008

gallery days

Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Hartford Wash, performance piece, 1973

not every day in the life of a gallery manager is as glamorous as you may imagine 

(if, that is, people even suspect that my job is glamorous). 

i always loved institutional critique because of its subversive erosion of the myth of the white walled gallery space. the classic white walled gallery space we have at fenario gallery is a pristine, light-flooded space with eggshell walls, and blonde hard wood floors. it has the kind of aesthetic identity that implies success. there is something about the traditional presentation of an art gallery that causes people to quite their voice upon entry, hush their foot steps; a sense of reverence. there is something ordered, something meticulous and thus authoritative and sanctioned about the clean typed didactics, and neatly leveled canvases that gives the space a solemn, monumental presence. 

i still remember the first time that i visited the metropolitan museum of art. the hushed sense of awe. 

when i first started to feel responsible for the quality level of the gallery, this myth of perfection was a huge weight on my mind. i constantly leveled canvases, spot mopped the floor, etc. it stressed me out to think of our gallery being conceived of as unprofessional, or lacking in any way. then something miraculous happened. i took my dad to the jordan schnitzer art museum for fathers day, and after months in the gallery scene in a professional capacity i noticed all of their imperfections. there were crooked tags, smears on the paint, typos! for some reason this was really exciting for me. if an institution as important and influencial as the schnitzer can have tiny errors, surely i can get away with a few rough spaeckle spots and chipped floor boards. 

what was i rambling for again?....

ah yes, this morning i mopped for an hour and felt like cinderella and then instantly thought of mierle laderman ukeles, who washed the steps of an art museum during open hours to inspire people to be conscious of all of the menial tasks that required to keep an art institution pristine and perpetuating the myth of the white walled gallery space. 

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