Max Anderson Lassoed Five Museums for ‘Art Everywhere’

Dallas Museum of Art director dreamed American art in 50 states and 50,000 locations.

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Maxwell Anderson Courtesy: Dallas Museum of Art

What’s the popular but ubiquitous art-museum director Maxwell Anderson doing these days? Taking over Times Square.

The blockbuster “Art Everywhere” exhibition that’s placing images on famous works of American art on billboards and buildings coast-to-coast might well be called “Anderson Everywhere.” Anderson, now head of the Dallas Museum of Art, was the primary organizer of the five-museum “Art Everywhere US: A Very Very Big Art Show” exhibition. In it, images like Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington or Grant Wood’s American Gothic—all 58 chosen in a popular vote—are popping up in public locations across the US now through August 31. And in case you are unimpressed, Anderson explained to reporters that the show represents “actually the biggest media project in American history.”

What the big, bright suite of images definitely does represent is a vibrant and visible return to New York for the once-ousted museum director. Anderson was famously tossed out of town a decade ago by a contentious board at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Nonetheless, he’s kept a surprisingly metropolitan profile since—at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, winning the right to represent the US at the 2011 Venice Biennale, among other coups. A stint in Dallas—where he told artnet News months ago he would likely and happily spend the rest of his career (though we’re skeptical)—has nonetheless included just as many frequent-flyer miles, many on flights back to New York on various projects or panels.

But no project has been higher profile than his latest: the billboard project. He’s been the one to blame, or to credit, with the appearance of these ginormous infamous images from Denver to Cheyenne to Chicago. He was the one who approached four other museums to add their American highlights to the mix: the Art Institute of Chicago, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the National Gallery in Washington, DC, and, not incidentally, the Whitney in New York. Apparently, all is forgiven.

Does the art “campaign” work? It’s garnered some fine and happy publicity, with AdWeek, for example, crowing “The next Campbell’s Soup billboard you see might well be a masterpiece.”

But it’s curious to display art in places and a manner associated with commercial images, especially in an era when there’s too much talk of commercializing art. But, ultimately, “Art Everywhere” disappoints, at least in midtown New York, though probably not elsewhere, simply because many of the images get lost in the blinking Times Square cacophony. The ones that don’t—Margaret Bourke-White’s vision of a Depression-era bread line comes to mind—seem misplaced and unwelcoming on a grand scale.

But on 42nd Street, one giant image really pops, a yellow Jeff Koons balloon dog. Only problem: It’s not a part of the show. It’s an ad for H&M.


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