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Friday, May 20, 2005

My Latest Badge of Honor

A reader has informed me that FtF got a mention in yesterday’s Arkansas Times. The piece was about Alice Walton’s recent purchase of Asher Durand’s Kindred Spirits and made reference to last Friday’s post on the topic. Here’s the quote from the newspaper:
Some of the criticism has exhibited a certain amount of snobbery about art in the backwoods of Arkansas. On-line art critic and consultant Todd Gibson wrote Friday in fromthefloor.blogspot.com that he’s “afraid that the Durand is heading off to a collection of American art that will be consistently curated to make didactic, patriotic arguments. . . . I’ll bet it’s just a matter of time before reproductions of this work, and the many others Walton has been acquiring, will be available in every Wal-Mart around the country.”
Can you belive that? I’ve been called an art snob by the Arkansas Times! There’s one that I will definitely wear with pride.

Seriously, though, if the journalist had understood my reference to Ross Perot and Huntington Hartford, she would have seen that I don’t have it out for Arkansas. Lord knows I’ve traveled to much more remote locales than Bentonville to view art. Heck, I’ll probably find my way there in 2009 to see this collection when the museum opens.

My concern is that, like many private collections assembled by painfully wealthy individuals and eventually opened to the public, this one will be used to make a political statement (for Ross Perot “America rocks,” for Huntington Hartford “MoMA sucks”) and for public relations purposes for the family business (EDS in Perot’s case and A&P for Hartford).

The Walton Family Foundation said, in its announcement about the acquisition of the Durand, that the planned museum will “present perspectives on the flow of America's history and heritage through the eyes of the nation’s most influential artists.” I see a hint in that statement that the art will be used to reinforce notions of American superiority and manifest destiny on a global scale, limiting readings of the works shown and imposing an ideological framework on them by which they should not be constrained.

As for the quip about making the collection available in reproduction through the stores, well, can you imagine them not producing a catalogue and distributing it through Wal-Mart? Come on. There’s no chance that it won’t happen.

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