Advanced

Carelessness or Curatorial Chutzpah? : Controversies Surrounding Street Art in the Museum

Bengtsen, Peter LU (2012) NORDIK 2012
Abstract
My paper discussed two controversies surrounding the exhibition Art in the Streets, which was shown at the MOCA in Los Angeles April 17th - August 8th 2011. One focal point was the reaction of conservative American commentators to the exhibition in general; another the reactions of agents within the street art world to the removal of one specific artwork.



Contrary to the session chairs’ suggestion that there is a tendency for art museums to “avoid contentious topics”, MOCA actively decided to bring non-institutional art into the museum, creating a show of what the curators deemed the most prolific graffiti writers and street artists from the 1960s onward. The show did not sit well with American conservative... (More)
My paper discussed two controversies surrounding the exhibition Art in the Streets, which was shown at the MOCA in Los Angeles April 17th - August 8th 2011. One focal point was the reaction of conservative American commentators to the exhibition in general; another the reactions of agents within the street art world to the removal of one specific artwork.



Contrary to the session chairs’ suggestion that there is a tendency for art museums to “avoid contentious topics”, MOCA actively decided to bring non-institutional art into the museum, creating a show of what the curators deemed the most prolific graffiti writers and street artists from the 1960s onward. The show did not sit well with American conservative commentators. For instance, contributing editor of City Journal Heather Mac Donald called it a “shallow, abominably irresponsible show” which “assiduously ignores the moral and civic issues raised by any glorification of graffiti”. There is an interesting debate on the role of the museum here: On the one hand, it could be seen as reprehensible for museums (as socially responsible institutions) to sanction as art what is commonly perceived as vandalism. On the other hand, it could be argued that MOCA is living up to its role as a museum by engaging with the public and problematising our commonsense understanding of art and society through a conscious use of controversy.



Apart from conservative criticism of the show, the removal of an artwork by the Italian artist BLU also sparked debate within the street art world itself. The removal has been seen as a failure to bring a non-institutional art form into the institutional confines of the museum. However, it could be argued that the controversy provided the mural, the artist and Art in the Streets with more attention among a core audience of street art aficionados than might otherwise have been forthcoming. BLU is well-known for his political murals, and it is hard to believe that the curators were unaware of this when they assigned a high-profile outer wall to him. It is unlikely that the mural controversy was a conscious construction used as a means to increase attention for Art in the Streets. However, the fact remains that it did raise the profile of the show within the street art world, and that it here sparked a debate on institutionalisation, gentrification, commercialisation and the very nature of street art, which in itself can be seen as one of the most significant outcomes of the exhibition. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to conference
publication status
published
subject
conference name
NORDIK 2012
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
865dc3a4-8b2d-4228-9fb4-537167b9b662 (old id 2301306)
alternative location
https://www.academia.edu/2960561/Bengtsen_P._2012_._Carelessness_or_Curatorial_Chutzpah_Controversies_Surrounding_Street_Art_in_the_Museum
date added to LUP
2012-11-07 09:37:34
date last changed
2016-08-15 09:18:31
@misc{865dc3a4-8b2d-4228-9fb4-537167b9b662,
  abstract     = {My paper discussed two controversies surrounding the exhibition Art in the Streets, which was shown at the MOCA in Los Angeles April 17th - August 8th 2011. One focal point was the reaction of conservative American commentators to the exhibition in general; another the reactions of agents within the street art world to the removal of one specific artwork. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
Contrary to the session chairs’ suggestion that there is a tendency for art museums to “avoid contentious topics”, MOCA actively decided to bring non-institutional art into the museum, creating a show of what the curators deemed the most prolific graffiti writers and street artists from the 1960s onward. The show did not sit well with American conservative commentators. For instance, contributing editor of City Journal Heather Mac Donald called it a “shallow, abominably irresponsible show” which “assiduously ignores the moral and civic issues raised by any glorification of graffiti”. There is an interesting debate on the role of the museum here: On the one hand, it could be seen as reprehensible for museums (as socially responsible institutions) to sanction as art what is commonly perceived as vandalism. On the other hand, it could be argued that MOCA is living up to its role as a museum by engaging with the public and problematising our commonsense understanding of art and society through a conscious use of controversy. <br/><br>
<br/><br>
Apart from conservative criticism of the show, the removal of an artwork by the Italian artist BLU also sparked debate within the street art world itself. The removal has been seen as a failure to bring a non-institutional art form into the institutional confines of the museum. However, it could be argued that the controversy provided the mural, the artist and Art in the Streets with more attention among a core audience of street art aficionados than might otherwise have been forthcoming. BLU is well-known for his political murals, and it is hard to believe that the curators were unaware of this when they assigned a high-profile outer wall to him. It is unlikely that the mural controversy was a conscious construction used as a means to increase attention for Art in the Streets. However, the fact remains that it did raise the profile of the show within the street art world, and that it here sparked a debate on institutionalisation, gentrification, commercialisation and the very nature of street art, which in itself can be seen as one of the most significant outcomes of the exhibition.},
  author       = {Bengtsen, Peter},
  language     = {eng},
  title        = {Carelessness or Curatorial Chutzpah? : Controversies Surrounding Street Art in the Museum},
  year         = {2012},
}