Mass (MoCA) Confusion

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In yesterday’s Boston Globe, Ken Johnson came down pretty hard on Mass MoCA for its hard to fathom decision to show a rump version of an installation by the Swiss sculptor Christoph Buchel that the museum had commissioned, then cancelled in May after squabbling with Buchel over rising costs.

I’ll let the lawyers sort out who was the injured party in the Buchel/MoCA dispute. But the museum’s decision to (sort of) exhibit Buchel’s installation in half finished form has always struck me as not so much a reasonable curatorial judgment call as an institutional temper tantrum, a way of sticking it to an artist who has given them a hard time. (I say “sort of” because, in addition to the work being unfinished, the museum is “showing” it behind construction fencing covered with yellow tarps.) Mass MoCA may have good reason to be exasperated by Buchel, but that doesn’t excuse their decision to misrepresent his work.

My travels haven’t taken me up to Mass MoCA to see the quasi-exhibit, but here’s Johnson’s conclusion. For some reason it doesn’t surprise me:

….altogether a gloomy, frustrating, and not at all illuminating experience.