Distilled Truth? Cai Guo-Qiang at the Guggenheim

MASS MoCA Snubbed by the Guggenheim?

By Peter Duhon in New York

In the spirit of Cai Guo-Qiang, Lee Rosenbaum blasts the Guggenheim for not crediting MASS MoCA for a pioneering show it held in 2004-05 of works by Cai Guo-Qiang. I think the situation is much more complicated than a simple snub but more on that later.

Lee writes in her blog, "there seems to be a news blackout on the fact that the original version of the much discussed centerpiece for the show---a succession of identical automobiles, emanating sparks as they hurtle through the Guggenheim's rotunda---was created for a wide-ranging 2004-05 exhibition, Cai Guo-Qiang: Inopportune at MASS MoCA, North Adams."

Lee continues, "The upcoming New York show was "designed," according to the Guggenheim's press release "as a site-specific installation." So was its uncredited precursor at MASS MoCA."

Was it a snub not to mention MASS MoCA in the Guggenheim's press release or an instance where the Guggenheim simply decided against having their name associated with an institution such as MASS MoCA that recently mishandled an installation project with critically acclaimed Swiss artist Christoph Büchel installation?

Unless their is some significant regime change at MASS MoCA and a new PR firm to boot, their name will forever conjure up dinosaur institutions that cannot raise appropriate funds for high-profile projects that it commissions, and one that pursues the course of getting a foreign artist tangled in costly litigation that presumably cost more than the money they failed to raise for the potential show itself.

This begs the question, should there have been a mention of MASS MoCA in the Guggenheim's press release in relating to Cai Guo-Qiang's upcoming show titled I Want to Believe? I'm not so sure. I noticed in the Guggenheim press release that they actually mention that one of the pieces for the show, the item at the center of Lee Rosenbaum's contentious article, was created in 2004 but doesn't credit the piece as being created for MASS MoCA.

Here's the excerpt from the Guggenheim's press release: "Major works that are anticipated to be featured in the exhibition include a version of Inopportune: Stage One (2004)."

We are all keenly aware of the competition among museums and this could possibly lead to the exclusion of mentioning other museums in official press releases. But for some reason, we have both museum and prominent art writers applying figurative white-out to MASS MoCA.

The Real Story: Here's an example of the Guggenheim and possibly even prominent New York art writers playing the language game to full advantage by putting the tacit avoidance card on the table for all to see with the exclusion of MASS MoCA in press releases and industry leading articles. This refusal of acknowledgement announces to industry insiders and key players in the art world that they frown upon MASS MoCA's handling of the situation with Swiss artist Christoph Büchel.

Bold Prediction: Christoph Büchel retrospective at one of the Guggenheim's locations worldwide within the next 5 years. And yes, they will not mention that Christoph Büchel never fulfilled his installation and artistic vision with MASS MoCA in their press release. And rightfully so, some things are just not worth mentioning.