How’d That Art Get In Here?

An employee of a German museum has been fired for smuggling his own artwork in and hanging it on the walls. I haven’t seen the artwork but I can already say I like his style. Yes, I understand that museums can’t let in just any artwork by anyone—there always has to be a certain amount of gatekeeping and at least some basic philosophy or statement of purpose, but it was a gallery of contemporary art. You can’t get any more contemporary than someone who currently works for the museum. Also it’s not as though he broke in or that he wasn’t authorized to be there. The museum’s being very circumspect about his specifics but he worked in Technical Services. I worked in Technical Services for a library, which was a catchall term for everything from the mailroom to paying invoices and assisting with collection decisions.

And why, instead of turning it into a criminal matter, couldn’t the museum take the opportunity to have a community discussion about what qualifies as museum-worthy art, who gets to decide, and why? I cringe when I hear the term “outsider artist”, which usually refers to self-taught artists, but why is that term never applied to Francis Bacon (the 20th century painter, not the 15th century philosopher)? Mostly because he was established decades before the term “outsider artist” was coined, but he also had connections to upper class British patrons and was friends with prominent art critics, which made him very much an insider. But he was still self-taught, as are many artists.

For that matter why is it that when Banksy sneaks his works into museums it’s considered an art stunt, if not a form of art in itself, but when someone who works in a museum does the same thing it’s a crime?

I understand the museum couldn’t just let this stand but, in addition to using it as an opportunity for discussion, couldn’t they have just docked the artist’s pay, made him responsible for fixing the holes in the wall? They don’t want to encourage copycats—fair enough, but one way to do that could be to provide staff an outlet—or inlet, giving them a chance to be more than just workers. Most people are drawn to work in museums because they have an interest in art. Why not tap into that?

This also reminds me of the time I was talking to librarian who worked in a music library. I said to him that it was cool he played so many instruments. He smirked and said, “You know everybody who works here is a musician, right?” I didn’t know that, and I wonder why.

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6 Comments

  1. Thomas Slatin ????️‍????

    Chris, I am reminded of the gatekeeping that my wife and I have faced our entire lives. Until recently, our books were consistently overlooked for inclusion in library collections, as most American libraries favor traditionally published works from major publishers, adhering strictly to predefined lists of acceptable publishers. However, our local library here in Vermont values our contributions, recognizing our books as exceptionally written—far from the typical commercialized fluff of modern books. If you’re interested, Barnes and Noble is our publisher, and you can find copies on their website. Thank you for your post; art galleries and libraries need to be far more transparent about their process for consideration and inclusion of works. ????
    Thomas Slatin ????️‍???? recently posted…CSX 6245 & CSX 6223My Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Thomas, thank you so much for that. This is a big issue for museums and libraries, as well as other venues, and I think collaborative discussion is the way to deal with it. I’m also really interested in the books you and your wife have written. I will be looking for those—I buy a lot of books and like supporting other bloggers, especially ones who haven’t gotten a lot of attention. I also make a lot of recommendations to libraries and can sometimes get things through the gate.

      Reply
  2. mydangblog

    Wow, that’s cheeky–the most I’ve ever done is go into one of the bigger bookstores here and move my books to the bestsellers shelf!
    mydangblog recently posted…Adventure Time ThrowbackMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s a smart thing to do, and, hey, they’re your best books and they’re for sale so technically your books are “best sellers”.

      Reply
  3. ANN J KOPLOW

    I hope you know I like your style, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I like your style too, Ann–you have style in several different media too, from blogging to media.

      Reply

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