This year the theme is the system. The purpose of a system is what it does (Stafford Beer). The system produces (systemically), the institution records (systematically), and we all stroll round and round.
We mourn the cultural heritage lost in Gaza and Palestine: not just the hundreds and thousands of years old religious art and architecture, but all the writers and artists who died from Israeli bombs, all the art and joy that will never be.
The Museum of Jurassic Technology
I cannot explain this museum to you. You simply must experience it. Take for example Geoffrey Sonnabend: Obliscence, the theory of forgetting, and the problem of matter. Is it fiction? Satire? Insanity? Formalism? I don’t know, you don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter anyway. Suffice to say, the MOJT is in the "obsessive weirdo builds out a house" genre and will change your entire perspective of what museums are, or can be. No photography allowed. Tea and birds on the roof.
Fusterlandia by José Fuster
You could also say that Fusterlandia is a “weirdo building out a house”, and indeed José Fuster was inspired in part by Isaiah Zagar of (last year's best art entrant) Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens. In socialist Cuba the conditions are ripe for just this kind of passion project.
In Cuba, art school is free. So is medical school, engineering school, all school. A government that encourages and supports artists instead of indebting them, arresting them, or tearing down their work to build investment properties? Revolutionary! Imagine what the artists and architects of Cuba could do if the US weren’t blockading them from getting basic supplies.
El Morro in Havana, Cuba
El Morro is a Spanish fort at the mouth of the port, with breathtaking views of the city of Havana. It’s a perfectly nice, respectable fort, but at 9 every night they put a bunch of re-enactors in white military coats and cheap powered wigs, parade them around the grounds with drums and torches, and light off the canon. In the US this would be very cheesy and also kind of reactionary but I think the key to making this great historical re-enactment is to do it at night, with lots of fire. It was also my first night in Cuba, and I was ready to feel that revolutionary spirit. Hasta la Victoria Siempre.
Wildlife Photographer of the Year at Royal Ontario Museum
Impossible to pick just one. The judges did, I suppose (Laurent Ballesta for his underwater photos including a horseshoe crab). But our world is a web of ecosystems, and all these gorgeous photos of all manner of animals, plants and habitats…they’re better together than trying to set any one apart.
Richard Avedon: MURALS at the Met
I saw some real boring photographer-to-the-stars shows this year (which all seem to conjure only 2 ideas: “who is that/oh I recognize him” and “shame you can’t make a living [much less get famous] being a staff photographer for a legacy publication anymore”). Avedon on the other hand takes a very straightforward portrait format and interrogates all the wild contradictions of the cold war era just by standing people next to each other. All the nudie ass Factory artists directly opposite the Mission Council suits in Vietnam? Sublime. The Vietnamese sex workers with oblivious American GIs? Scathing.
Museum of Wood Art, Philadelphia PA
The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning NY
Two museums about medium, both alike in dignity, but that’s where the similarities end. Museum of Wood art is tiny, scrappy, and free to the public. Corning is a massive institution, highly commercialized, and industry-funded. Both support amazing craftspeople, and showcase a wide range of breathtaking works. May museums of a thousand mediums bloom. I’m rooting for the Neon Art movement next.
Angel of the Citadel - Horse and Rider - Town's Guardian Angel by Marino Marini at The Getty
Location, location, location. Anywhere else (say, the white walls of a photo studio) this is a cute, whimsical piece making fun of overwrought equestrian statues (and Appeal to the Great Spirit specifically). But perched on top of the Getty Center, arms spread and dick out, this little guy gives a giant fuck you to all of Los Angeles, and that’s beautiful.
Metropolis II by Chris Burden at LAMCA
Central Meridien (The Garage) by Michael C. McMilllen at LACMA
Collective Suicide by David Alfaro Sisquieros at MoMA
Dishonorable mention: The worst museum I saw this year
Academy Museum of Motion Pictures
I saw 9 museums on my whirlwind tour of Los Angeles, many of them phenomenal (Jurassic Technology, MOCA LA, The Getty), some of them obscene (the Broad), but the only one that was straight bad was the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Given the massive, rich cultural history of cinema, and the unparalleled access to elite auteurs and rarefied objects you’d think they could come up with some meaningful exhibitions. Instead, we get a museum designed by committee to be vacuous. Interpretation? Never heard of her. Here’s a clip show on very large screens, and a red carpet you’re literally not allowed to walk on.
They should sell $10 tickets for their balcony view and forget the rest.