Glenn Lowry Admits to ‘Wall Street Journal’ That Björk Show Failed

Will MoMA really learn from its Björk mistake?


Even Glenn Lowry, director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, isn’t about to defend its critically lampooned Björk show (see Ladies and Gentlemen, the Björk Show at MoMA Is Bad, Really Bad).

“As a museum that supports artists of all stripes, we accept the risk that accompanies this engagement even though we recognize some projects may not live up to our own expectations,” Lowry told the Wall Street Journal, seemingly admitting that the overwhelmingly negative critical response to the exhibition was on point.

Interestingly, the heated debate surrounding the show has mostly involved MoMA’s embattled chief curator-at-large Klaus Biesenbach (see MoMA Curator Klaus Biesenbach Should Be Fired Over Björk Show Debacle), not the Icelandic songstress, with the exhibition’s curator taking the brunt of the backlash aimed at the unpopular show.

Glenn D. Lowry Photo: Paul Porter/

Glenn D. Lowry
Photo: Paul Porter/

While the art world seems remarkably united in its aversion to the exhibition, the verdict is still out on Biesenbach (see Art World Reacts to Christian Viveros-Fauné’s Call for Klaus Biesenbach to Resign and Jeffrey Deitch Claims Art World Persecution and Defends Klaus Biesenbach), who has been accused of being more interested in fame, social media stunts and celebrity than in contemporary art—it’s worth noting that Biesenbach’s Björk follow-up, co-curated with Christophe Cherix, will be a Yoko Ono exhibition.

While the Journal spoke to last year’s Whitney Biennial co-curator Michelle Grabner, who likened the current show to a three-tiered branding exercise —”The Björk brand, the MoMA brand and the Biesenbach brand, all on parade and each surfacing as shoddy cultural productions”— others think the criticism is over the top.

MoMA PS1 founder Alanna Heiss, a friend of the MoMA curator, likened the anti-Biesenbach sentiment to “a bunch of bullies in high school,” insisting to the Journal that “it’s not believable that one man could do so much wrong with one show of one good artist.”


James Franco and Klaus Biesenbach. Photo: Will Ragozzino.

James Franco and Klaus Biesenbach.
Photo: Will Ragozzino.

The Journal also suggests that the curator is particularly beloved by his Rockaway neighbors, with his barbecue buddy Kevin Boyle, editor of the Rockaway Times, defending Biesenbach from those who accuse him of being too invested in celebrities such as James Franco (see Klaus Biesenbach and James Franco Spar Over Richard Prince’s Instagram Art). Apparently, post–Hurricane Sandy, Biesenbach made the rounds offering help to rebuild the devastated community—Madonna in tow.

“We’re pretty much the epitome of non-celebrity people and he courts us,” Boyle told the Journal. “It’s hard to call Klaus a regular guy because he’s not and never could be, but he certainly appreciates the regular guy.”

As the museum looks to rebound from the Björk debacle, the Journal notes that MoMA “takes the Björk criticism seriously and strives to learn from it when developing future exhibit models for boundary-pushing artists.”

What that means for Biesenbach remains to be seen.

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