Art World Reacts to Christian Viveros-Fauné’s Call for Klaus Biesenbach to Resign

The art world wants a break from celebrity worship. So do we.

Klaus Biesenbach with James Franco. Are we the only ones who wonder what their conversations are like?

artnet News critic Christian Viveros-Fauné called yesterday for the resignation of MoMA PS1 director and MoMA chief curator at large Klaus Biesenbach. (See MoMA Curator Klaus Biesenbach Should Be Fired Over Björk Show Debacle.)

No surprise the Internet is alive with reactions on both sides. The article points out that many museum insiders are troubled by celebrity exhibitions mounted by Biesenbach, who seems to have pretty much free rein.

But none of his shows have been as poorly reviewed as the Björk show, which received universal condemnation. See Ladies and Gentlemen, the Björk Show at MoMA Is Bad, Really Bad and The 6 Best Takedowns of MoMA’s Appalling Björk Show.

Yesterday, after artnet News called for Biesenbach’s resignation, the art world was alive with discussion and debate. Many art world folks were privately nodding in agreement, but there have also been plenty of public reactions.

Tweets aren’t endorsements, but we note that the article on artnet News has been tweeted by prominent art-world commentators such as The Art Market and Felix Salmon (with the written sound effect: *click*).

At Flavorwire, Jonathon Sturgeon wonders whether “the unholy shotgun marriage between pop music and institutional high art about to end in divorce.”

“Like most celebrity marriages,” he adds.

Popular tweeter American Suburb X summed up the article “Biesenbach as Baffoon” (sic).

“RIP KLAUS BIESENBACH,” tweeted Brooklyn artist Sean Jay Patrick Carney, following that up with “RIP CY TWOMBLY,” referring to that time when someone posted a link to a Twombly obituary years after his death, leading to a wave of grief over the death of “Zombie Cy Twombly.” (Will Biesenbach prove similarly undead? Only time will tell.)

One follower of filmmaker and blogger Greg Allen tweeted a threat that he would create a Genius.com page for the story, which would allow annotations by commenters (see Christopher Glazek Annotates His NYT Stefan Simchowitz Story). That way we wouldn’t all have to become Facebook friends just to see the reactions. Do it, dude! (Update: he did it.)

New York Magazine art critic and art world firebrand Jerry Saltz was sure to have a hot take. He posted a photograph of himself setting alight his 2014 MoMA press pass like it was a Vietnam-era draft card to Twitter, where he boasts some 60,000 followers. (And you thought he was popular on Facebook! See Jerry Saltz Got Banned From Facebook–About Time.)

It is, of course, a few months into a new year now, and ArtNews editor Sarah Douglas responded to Jerry, doubtless with a smile, “Is this an act of protest or is it because you got the 2015 card??”

But who knows? Maybe Jerry will up the ante on his protest and move to Canada next, like some 1960s draft dodger!

“Whoooowahwewoooo yikesss,” Modern Painters editor Scott Indrisek remarked on Facebook as he posted the article.

Time Out art critic Howard Halle points out on Facebook that the buck stops not at Biesenbach’s desk or even that of director Glenn Lowry: “Lowry has been dutifully executing the will of the board … to increase attendance and expand the museum. … So it’s a bit rich that unnamed board members are now shocked, SHOCKED! that MoMA’s has been catering to tourists.”

Reactions are coming in from as far away as Dubai, where tweeter Hind Mezaina says, “The MoMA/Biesenbach bashing piece is hilarious. This incident w/ Mykki Blanco is hilarious,” and the Philippines, where Jeffrey Ronald L. Sisican sees the problem as “cruel critics.”

Like Sisican, not everyone is enjoying all the Klausenfreude.

Popular art journalist Tyler Green devoted no fewer than eight tweets to a takedown of the takedown, calling it silly clickbait. But hey, at least he included a link, unlike some bloggers we know, namely Hyperallergic’s great Hrag Vartanian, who says “Christian Viveros-Fauné is clearly on another planet” (but won’t post a link). Like, a planet where powerful curators are actually fair game for well-researched criticism? Yep, that’s the one!

Chicago artist Kate Ingold, on Facebook, thinks that Björk’s deeply felt art is the problem: “Are critics afraid of feeling?” she asked when posting the article. Some of her friends, too, wonder about the hatred for women artists, while others point out that the Tim Burton show at MoMA was similarly panned.

“Disturbingly annoying,” Indianapolis Museum of Art public affairs officer Silvia Filippini called the article on Twitter.

A seemingly neutral comment: Someone, for some reason, created a YouTube video with a computer voice reading the article you are reading right now.

Biesenbach continues to blithely post photos looking out his window to Instagram, where he’s got 158,000 followers.

Perhaps hoping to call attention to some less controversial shows, he’s also posted a photo of a Carina Brandes work from the MoMA PS1 show “The Little Things Could be Dearer,” curated by Mia Locks.


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