The wince-inducing problem of fluff or vanity shows is back, this time at the Cincinnati Art Museum. The museum is hosting a particularly egregious example of the form, an exhibition called “The Way We Are Now: Selections from the 21c Collection.” The “21c collection” is the private collection of hoteliers Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown.
In CityBeat, Cincy’s alt-weekly, Steven Rosen reports that the Cincinnati Art Museum isn’t just exhibiting a private collection, but that the show was even selected by Wilson and Brown’s curator. [Update: CAM says that CityBeat is in error and that CAM’s James Crump co-curated.] Rosen also reports that the exhibition was thrown together in near-record time: in “just a few weeks.”
Vanity/fluff shows at substantial museums are improper regardless of who picks the work that goes into the show. But when the museum suggests on its website that the show is an ad for a business — “These artworks are drawn from the collection of 21c Museum Hotel, opening a branch in Cincinnati in 2012″ and the hotel and its art collection “promise[s] to be a catalyst for cultural life in the city” — the enterprise is especially improper.
(The nomenclature is confusing, but I confirmed with 21c’s public relations rep that there’s no non-profit involved, just the Wilson/Brown collection, which goes by various forms of ’21c.’)
Related: Recent fluff shows at the Art Institute of Chicago and LACMA.