a photoessay on museums and the people there

I admit it. I love looking at people, especially people looking at other things. At the Guggenheim was a strange exhibit, Maurizio Cattelan: All. Go to the link and watch a neat photo of the installation process. It might actually be more interesting than the exhibit. What’s very bizarre about this “artist” is that he is so cunning about taking on the position as society jester. ISHI and I were wondering about the use of the harlequin by Picasso and others of the early 20th century.

Okay, I found something. I think it’s relevant to the discussion at hand. Apparently, the word that Picasso would have used is saltimbanque.

In 1905 Picasso abandoned the palette and subject matter of the Blue period, turning to images of fairground and circus performers, whom he depicted in a range of chalky red hues. Accordingly, this phase of his work has come to be known as the Rose period. Picasso observed these figures firsthand at the Cirque Medrano, as well as in the streets and outskirts of the city, where a migrant community of acrobats, musicians, and clowns– saltimbanques–entertained passing spectators. Such figures commonly occur in romantic and symbolist art and verse (from Daumier and Seurat to Baudelaire and Rimbaud), where the saltimbanque exists in a perpetual state of melancholy and social alienation. In the poems of Guillaume Apollinaire, one of several poets who were among the artist’s closest friends at this time, the acrobat acquires an air of mystery and enchantment that clearly corresponds to Picasso’s tone. Through paintings, watercolors, gouaches, drawings, and prints, Picasso tends to show his fairground performers at rest, often in domestic settings that are genial and warm. Yet in keeping with their relatively impoverished circumstances and the saltimbanque’s traditional role as a symbol of the neglected artist, a pervasive ennui suffuses Rose period pictures.

Got it? I do think that works for Cattelan, too. I mean, look at what he presents! But really, what interested me more is how he strung everything up and even more, how people looked at the work. Huge crowds, really looking. And I love how people dress for museums. Especially in New York. So of course, I took photos. So here are some in a gallery I think best for this.

And yes, I love the photos of the little girl the most. What did she do to deserve this?


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