Sunday, July 09, 2006

it just doesn't sit well, somehow

I don't know much about art. But there's something, indeed several somethings, disturbing about this article about building a Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi (lifted from a New York Times article that you need to register to see here).

For one thing, the article emhasizes the economic and tourism boost a musuem will provide - not the art. (In the SF Chronic version, the art isn't mentioned; in the NYT piece, it gets 2 paragraphs.) The purpose seems to be to extend a sort of Guggenheim empire into the Middle East. Are they sure that if they build it, anyone will come?

Which brings up the second disturbing thing. Like I said, I don't know much about art. I had assumed, for instance, that art museums were primarily cultural institutions dedicated to preserving masterworks and presenting them in a context for aesthetic enjoyment, study, understanding, juxtaposition, and so forth. But what the Guggenheim folks seem intent upon is having "an outpost" in the Middle East. What is this, a foreign embassy for modern art?

But the most deeply disturbing thing took me a while to recognize, and in fact it wouldn't have become entirely clear without Lauren's help. The other non-New York Guggenheim museum is in Bilbao (where it has been a boon to the local economy, the article explains). Guggenheim-Bilbao will now be joined by Guggenheim-Abu Dhabi. "Guggenheim" isn't silly-sounding enough for these people? "Guggenheim-Bilbao" didn't satiate? They had to start building "Guggenheim-Abu Dhabi"? Why not "Guggenheim-Winnemucca"? "Guggenheim-Cucamonga"? "Guggenheim-Wagga Wagga"? (Cuz we can't leave out our Antipodean friends.)

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