Watch Kehinde Wiley, Tom Sachs, Xu Bing and Lisa Yuskavage Discuss Art in the Metropolitan Museum
How do artists look at paintings? Join them on a tour and find out.
A series of videos launching Wednesday features contemporary artists from Cory Arcangel to Lisa Yuskavage in the galleries at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s the first of five seasons that will ultimately feature a hundred artists talking about some of their favorite works and inspirations.
Studying canvases by society portraitist John Singer Sargent, Wiley says that like his own work, Sargent’s deals with “some of the problematics surrounding class. But they’re fabulous.”
“Let’s not doubt that these are high-priced luxury goods for wealthy consumers,” he reminds us, in language similar to what he’s said about his own works.
Xu Bing studies landscapes by Jean-François Millet. Having lived on a farm, he says, he sees in them “a passion and a respect for the farmer or for the peasant [that] comes from Millet’s real understanding of their lives.”
He focuses on a canvas showing hay piled high. What might seem to the casual observer like a peaceful landscape, he says, represents the fall harvest, an important job that had to be completed before the arrival of the rains, represented on the canvas by dark clouds.
“I have never in my life made a painting but I always head for these,” says New York artist Nina Katchadourian, visiting the 15th-century Netherlandish paintings. She praises the unique characterizations of the subjects and the artists’ acute observations.
“I kind of see that as the [artist’s] job,” she says, “pay attention to things in the world, and then try to show people who might be looking at your work what you have been paying attention to and what you want to show them.”
While the video doesn’t mention it, Katchadourian has found inspiration in 15th-century Flemish painting before. Her “Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style” photographs show her in airplane bathrooms, wearing comical headdresses that recall those popular in that era. She fashioned the cowls from tissue paper toilet seat covers during a long-haul flight.
According to materials from the museum, other artists offer observations on museums generally, as when Izhar Patkin says “that the role of an encyclopedic museum cannot be underestimated. It’s the one place that requires tolerance as the first rule of entering the institution.” The comment is especially timely after the NYPD sent additional forces to guard the Met after an attack on the Bardo Museum in Tunisia (see Security Threats Force Bardo Musem to Postpone Reopening and NYPD Surround Metropolitan Museum of Art and Other New York Museums After Tunis Attacks).
John Baldessari, looking at a Philip Guston, says, “I think it’s tough to like. I think the average viewer is going to say, ‘Yeah, my kid can do that.’ But I think it’s brilliant: making art look like it’s not about skill.”
The series is the museum’s latest online initiative on an already ambitious website, and a new salvo in the Met’s increasing involvement with contemporary art under Sheena Wagstaff, the chair since 2012 of the museum’s modern and contemporary art department.
The project was initiated by museum director Thomas Campbell, and the series is produced by museum staffers Teresa Lai, Christopher Noey, and Jenn Sherman.
The full roster for the first season: Cory Arcangel, John Baldessari, Nayland Blake, Nick Cave, Enrique Chagoya, George Condo, Walton Ford, Natalie Frank, Zarina Hashmi, Deborah Kass, Nina Katchadourian, Nicola López, Alexander Melamid, Izhar Patkin (see Izhar Patkin’s Poetic Enchantments at Mass MoCA), Tom Sachs, Katrín Sigurdardóttir, Mickalene Thomas, Kehinde Wiley, Xu Bing, and Lisa Yuskavage.
Future seasons of the video will launch in June, September, and December 2015 and February 2016.
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