One museum’s major exhibit-worthy street artist is another’s vandal, I suppose. Last week, while Boston was all a-chatter about Shepard Fairey’s exhibit at the ICA, and his arrest (en route to the opening, no less) for plastering our city walls with sneak peaks of said exhibit, something different was going on with MOMA.
The Museum of Modern Art’s crafty marketing executive, Doug Jaegar, “CEO of the brand-management agency the Happy Corp and president of the prestigious Art Directors Club,” according to New York Magazine, came up with an ad campaign that involved reproducing 57 of the museum’s most famous works, and wallpapering a Brooklyn subway station with them. But then, knowing that a) subway ads are prime targets for graffiti and street artists, and b) Poster Boy is New York’s street artist du jour, Jaeger recruited Poster Boy to intentionally “re-mix” the ads, in his own style – in the hopes of attracting even more attention to them. The remixes included giving Warhol’s screen print of Marilyn a nose job. NYMag writes:
“Early on we saw Poster Boy’s work, and we realized it was inevitable that if we did this project, his crew would likely see it as an opportunity. Whenever you create something, you want to make sure you’re prepared for that,” Jaeger says. “What I would hope is that it would cause debate and generate some argument, at a minimum.”
This is an ingenious move, especially for a museum of contemporary art. Simply plastering the subway with images from MOMA might remind some people of the great artworks that reside there – the Warhols, the Rothkos – or, it might introduce certain subway riders to artists they did not already know, thus drawing them to the museum.
But inviting Poster Boy to remix the ads presents a new angle. It’s the idea of sort of new art vs. really new art. It’s unpretentious and all-inclusive. It’s like MOMA saying, “Hey, we have a plethora of works by important artists from the last few decades, AND we’re also on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the art world now, from the echoing halls of our museum to cement ones on the streets, and in the subway stations.”
It’s not all that far off from what Shepard Fairey was doing in Boston, wheatpasting walls in virtually every neighborhood of our city to promote his show. The city may have arrested him, but at least the ICA had his back. The same can’t be said for MOMA, who made the decision to sever all ties with Jaegar after the Poster Boy incident, and denies approving the re-mixed (or destroyed, as the naysayers are calling it) ad campaign.
The museum had previously declined to comment, saying only that the destroyed ads would be reinstalled by Wednesday. But today it denied authorizing the attack. When it was suggested that actions took place with MoMA’s consent, Kim Mitchell, the museum’s spokesperson, responded: “That is not correct.”
Shouldn’t MOMA be defending and promoting new art forms, rather than discouraging them?