Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

A Cincinnati Art Museum exhibit = ad?

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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.

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  1. cjceglio says:

    The sequence of the following sentence from the CAM web site link that you provided stands to further muddy the perception of the show’s nature for those not already acquainted with 21c Museum Hotel or the particular departmentalization of the CAM’s collections:

    The Way We Are Now: Selections from the 21c Collection at the Cincinnati Art Museum (January 29 through May 15, 2011) showcases more than forty important works that

    Since the exhibition title is not in quotes it at first reads as though these are selections from “the 21c Collection at the Cincinnati Art Museum,” i.e., works owned by museum.

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