I’m nervous to present documentation from my installation, Possibilities for Representation, at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art included in Twenty Twenty. I’m nervous and filled with anxiety about the outcome of the coming election and what it will mean for the subsequent iterations of the installation. The exhibition, organized by Exhibitions Director Richard Klein, features several artists whose work addresses the politically-charged moment with works on paper drawn from photographic sources. All of the artists have been invited to add, subtract, or modify their contributions to the show.
I started work on the paintings for the show back in January to prepare for a June opening that was interrupted along with the rest of the world until October of this year. The individual works are currently for sale, much like the politicians depicted in the works who depend on private money to fund their campaigns. This decision is explained in a little more detail in the note included in the installation, but is not entirely commentary on campaign finance. It is also commentary on the economic impact of COVID on artists and galleries. The Aldrich is not a collecting museum, so selling the work out of the exhibition is less fraught than the current austerity-driven deaccessioning happening across the country as museums struggle to deal with lost revenue and the important work of expanding the representation of their current collections.
While there are important reasons for museums to sell works held in the public trust, it is still no less painful to see how museums are putting works back into speculative markets. I think it would feel similar to seeing a property held in a public land trust be dismantled and sold to private developers. In a less fucked up world donors, patrons, and the government would provide the funds necessary to support museum workers and begin new acquisitions campaigns to add under-represented artists (rather than engaging in expensive capital campaigns to expand their physical footprints). Right now, that isn’t a cultural or political reality, so it’s with some ambivalence that I accept there are urgent needs met by what might be described as “recapitalization” – returning work held in the public trust back into private hands due to a lack of public funding. It is difficult to put art, often held in storage and out of sight, before the needs of people. It just seems too much like an austerity measure and indictment of the lack of progress by museums to expand their holdings of art instead of expanding their spaces.