They’re In Every Museum.

entrySelections from a museum exhibit audio guide:

You are now listening to the Museum Visitor’s Audio Guide, narrated by Victor Tenor. This guide will take you through the current exhibit, providing an interactive and enjoyable experience. Feel free to press Pause at any time you wish to take time to examine a specific exhibit more closely but, please, do not touch.

Are you ready to begin? Good. Turn to your left.

#1 GRANDMOTHER (Early Modern)

This work is notable for its pressed white shorts and solid white tennis shoes, all offset with a red-and-white striped shirt and topped with a green sun visor. Notice how the closely cropped hair and oversized glasses accentuate the weathered but kindly face. Is that a hint of a smile? Notice how it seems to wryly suggest, “My grandson could paint stuff like this.”

#2 GRANDFATHER (Early Modern)

As strange as we might think it the combination of white loafers and bunched black socks seemed shocking at one time, particularly after Labor Day, but as this particular work has aged it’s merely found itself part of a community of similar works. Notice the minimal hair around the ears and how this merely serves to draw attention to the clusters that protrude from the bulbous nose. Ask yourself, was combining plaid shorts and a striped shirt intentional?

#3 GRANDCHILD (Contemporary)

This work completes the triptych. Bold and aggressive the faux-distressed t-shirt featuring the symbol of a popular superhero adds a Pop Art touch. Look carefully and you may find similarities to the previous two works, although the gap in time between production and stylistic and cultural changes make this unlikely. This work is known to baffle even scholars with the questions it raises, such as, “Can we go home now?” and “Do we have to do this?”

#6 SINGLE WOMAN (Mid-Post Modern)

An intriguing, constantly shifting work only available for viewing during lunch hours on Thursdays, Fridays, and occasional Saturdays this work also regularly appears in the museum gift shop near the Tiffany style earrings and Georgia O’Keefe refrigerator magnets. The smart business suit and bob haircut seem straightforward, but this work is multi-layered. Notice the ladybug earrings. Look quickly. This work may disappear shortly after getting a latte to go from the museum café.

#8 ART STUDENT (Late Post Modern)

Kitschy and employing a number of ironic clichés, from the fedora to the vest worn over a white t-shirt to the raggedly cut jeans decorated with rhinestones this work is on almost perpetual display. One of the most popular exhibits it’s never seen without a sketchbook, always carried but never opened, its contents perhaps deliberately concealed.

#9 HIPSTER GUY (Late Post Modern)

Seemingly influenced by the ART STUDENT, though this is often denied, notice this work’s similarly cut jeans, paired here with a too-tight t-shirt, in this case a bright pastel color, and the soul patch. The monochrome tattoo on the left bicep appears to be a Celtic design, but, partially obscured by the sleeve, it’s difficult to tell. Too studied to fall into the category of Folk Art this work represents a new direction, an attempt at outsider status that has, nevertheless, become so common it’s now considered mainstream.

#10 HIPSTER WOMAN (Late Post Modern)

Connected to but distinctly different from the previous work this one combines the old and new in surprising ways. The heavy black boots appear to be influenced by the 1990’s, while the solid black tights paired with a plaid flannel shirt tied around the waist are clearly from a decade earlier. The Cookie Monster t-shirt is both retro and contemporary. Notice how the suspenders provide a frame, and how the entire work is unexpectedly capped by a small bowler hat.

#14 MIDDLE AGED MAN (Early Post Modern)

Are the khaki slacks and blue denim shirt ironic or are they applied without deeper meaning? That’s one of many questions raised by this work. With the receding hair line and thoughtful expression it could be the product of almost any college level art program, but the subtlety draws us in. Did you expect to see a tiny skull and crossbones lapel pin? The horn-rimmed glasses are the only thing about this work that’s transparent.

#17 THE TEACHER (Mid-Post Modern)

Transitioning swiftly from calm to harried this particular work both begs for respectful quiet and raises questions. Notice the focus on the next work, and the steady sweeping gaze offset by the occasional roll of the eyes. For this exhibit this work was supposed to be paired with THE DOCENT. The latter work is currently unavailable leaving this work to stand on its own wearing platform shoes that, in retrospect, seem like a really bad decision.

#18 THE STUDENTS (Contemporary)

This work is striking in its broad variety. Notice the broad range of colors, the activity, the multi-directional focus. Notice how parts of this work look in every possible direction and consider the questions loudly and aggressively raised by this work, such as, “Why does that statue have a big purple dick?” Responses may range from outrage to laughter.

This concludes the exhibition audio guide. If you have borrowed one of the museum’s players please go to the front desk and return it to THE VOLUNTEER (Date unknown).


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  1. Ann Koplow

    #13 is definitely fooling me.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That particular work is tricky like that, but the fact that he’s staring at a blank wall should be a giveaway.

  2. kdcol

    Christopher, this is amazing. I love it. Very clever, you are. 🙂

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thank you so much. I like to think I’m just pulling back the Wizard of Oz’s curtain.

  3. Gina W.

    I just have to say you hit it right on the nose with your observations. Regarding the hipster, you may want to add “You may be tempted to think that this person is homeless based on their attire and knit cap, but the use of high-end electronics is a giveaway”. Seriously, when we were in San Francisco, where there is a very high homeless population AND hipster population, it’s kind of hard to tell the difference. I swear this is true, in one coffee shop I saw a young homeless guy sitting at a table and my heartstrings were tugged and I thought, “Bless his heart” only to get a closer look and realize that it was just a hipster. It was kind of annoying. I wasted my sympathy for no reason…

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Well, there was a reason. You can feel sorry for him for being a hipster and for leaving the house dressed like that. Not that I’m in any position to talk about how anyone else dresses. And it’s kind of hard to feel sorry for hipsters now that they’re being made into beer. But it’s beer that only used to be cool.

      Hipster beer.

  4. Margot

    Pure comedic gold, with a whopping side of insight.

    Also, #2 describes my step-father to a T, may his shit on a shingle soul rest in peace.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s awfully nice of you to wish him well in the afterlife where I imagine he perpetually wanders a mall in search of the ultimate frozen yogurt.

  5. Shawna

    A collection of Smithsonian wordsmiths and surrealists. I love this. People watching at museums is the best. I always wonder what each piece means to the other people around me. It seems like the kid who dared to ask about the big purple dick really knew his stuff. A true philosopher ahead of his time.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      It’s the inevitable result of taking kids to a Jeff Koons exhibit. Hey, who says art isn’t edifying?

  6. Jay

    Oh, these archetypes are amazing, to die for!
    You need to put this into a podcast so I can actually take this tour at a museum near me!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s a really tempting idea. I have a few other “works” in mind who could fill in the gaps. And I’m sure I could find Victor Tenor. He knows the same guy who several years ago filled up a friend’s answering machine with fake promos for upcoming NBC shows that would fill in the gap left by the finales of Friends and Frasier.
      Each promo ended with some variation of “Coming this fall to NBC…because we’re getting desperate.”


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