What’s better for cocktail party conversation: a trip to the The Metropolitan Museum to see the
Aside from The New Yorker’s Peter Schjeldahl, basically every critic in the city has panned Regarding Warhol. That’s for good reason. Curators Mark Rosenthal, Marla Prather, Ian Alteveer, and Rebecca Lowery have assembled a conceptually empty show around the idea that Warhol has influenced the art world's biggest stars—especially the long list of them included in this show.
The biggest problem though is the lack of respect the curators demonstrate for the work. There’s far more art crammed into the exhibition space than necessary, a mistake that homogenizes disparate pieces. This is apparent almost immediately; among the first objects you see in the gallery are Ai Wei Wei’s neolithic vase with a Coca Cola logo painted on it and Tom Sachs's chainsaw made out of Chanel shopping bags. These works don’t have anything to do with each other, but because they are both in similar vitrines, use corporate logos, and are displayed relatively close together, they look like they were made by the same artist. For anyone who wants to learn something about the artists in the show, that’s a problem, and one that crops up repeatedly: Warhol’s Empire State Building movie is projected alongside Bruce Nauman’s studio with mice (two films that share a similarity in duration alone); Richard Prince’s Marlboro Man advertisement and a John Baldessari manipulated film-still are squashed together in a corner as if they were one piece.
Making matters worse are the five sections of the exhibition, which are arranged under themes that appeared in Warhol’s art and do more to dumb the show down than tell us anything about contemporary art making. “Daily News: From Banality to Disaster," "Portraiture: Celebrity and Power," "Queer Studies: Shifting Identities"—these kinds of single-topic headings turn curating into list making instead of a practice focused on teasing out connections. This is most evident in the celebrity portrait section of the show, which is little more than a collection of art stars making pictures of other celebrities. "Consuming Images: Appropriation, Abstraction, and Seriality" and "No Boundaries: Business, Collaboration, and Spectacle" are slightly better if for no other reason than the new media inclusions offered some relief from the monotony of wall-based work. But at that point I’d already stopped caring.
While there’s no shortage of complaints to make about the show, it’s possible that Regarding Warhol fails so badly that it might even fail as discussion fodder for parties, too. This is an exhibition people love to hate on, but after a while all that negative energy becomes deflating. Next column, I write about something I like.