“How often does a project involving cats and art museums cross your desk?” went the publicist’s query, and I had to think to myself: Way more than I ever thought possible, back in the dark days of a feline-deficient art world. These days, you can barely swing a cat without hitting an art show dedicated to our superior, four-legged friends (the most recent high-profile example being Karen Kilimnik’s kitty-heavy solo at 303 Gallery).
The latest example, per that publicist, is “Meow,” opening May 21 at the Worchester Art Museum in Massachusetts. It includes a group show culled from the institution’s collection, one that is thematized around various points, the most salient being “the cat as metaphor for the modern artist.” (Prickly? Hard to please? Eager to be petted by attentive critics?) “This exhibition breaks from traditional feline-centric scholarship by looking at cats not simply as subjects that artists depicted in diverse media across time and place, but rather as iconic muses with their own, distinctly animalistic, agency,” says curator Ruth Dibble in press materials.
Because representation alone is not enough these days, “Meow” will also feature a reboot of the adoption-driven Cats-in-Residence program that many may remember from its previous iteration at White Columns in New York. The only sour note in this whole affair is a final note, hastily buried at the end of the exhibition announcement and clearly intended to throw a bone to the ever-growing dog lobby. “Helmutt, Worchester Art Museum’s canine mascot,” it notes, somewhat pathetically, “will organize a one-painting exhibition of his favorite work of art, Head of a Dog by Abbot Handerson Thay.”
—Scott Indrisek (@indrisek)
(Photo: Cornelis de Visscher, The Cat, 1657. Courtesy Worchester Art Museum)