Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Museum of Art in Arty Palm Springs

I'm writing this while staying in the Palm Springs, California area for a couple of weeks while my wife watches a tennis tournament in Indian Wells. During the times I'm not functioning as a taxi driver taking her to and from the tourney site, I prowl the region.

Because we're based quite a ways down the valley, I seldom make it up to Palm Springs itself; call it twice per sojourn. The main drag is Palm Canyon Drive, an eclectic architectural blend including some pre-World War 2 buildings, lots of restaurants and boutiques, and a whiff of funkiness to the atmosphere. A long block to the west of all this is the Palm Springs Art Museum, an airy modernist structure that has benefited from the many rich folks who live at least part-time in the area.

I never bothered to visit the museum until the day before I drafted this post. That's because it doesn't present an inviting face to potential casual visitors. For example, to get to the museum shop, one has to pay admission to the museum. I sometimes will visit a museum shop and pore through the postcards of items in the museum's collection in order to help me decide if a paid visit would be worth my time and money. So I had no way of evaluating the Palm Springs museum and avoided going in.

But this time I had a couple of hours to kill before resuming my taxi driver duties, so I sprung for an admission ticket. Since the art aspect of the museum is comparatively recent (this Wikipedia entry sketches its history), most of the art on display is contemporary modernist. However, there is a small section devoted to desert scenes painted by "name" artists in representational style.

Below are a few photos I took that might offer a flavor of the place.


Interior views
In the center background of the lower photo can be seen the outer wall of the representational zone; it holds a few paintings, perhaps to entice non-modernist visitors.

"Balancoires en fer" - Mona Hatoum - 1999-2000
"The Last Outpost" - Llyn Foulks - 1983
These are two works of "art" that I encountered. I find each of them both silly and pointless, though I suppose each has an elaborate rationale for its creation. What might viewers 200 years from now think? Would they regard this as art? -- they might, though I fervently hope not.


Used Cars Palm Springs said...

Who knows what people will view as art 200 years from now; art is so subjective. I've never visited this museum before but it looks kinda interesting...

mike shupp said...

uh.... Art that lacks signficance without explanation isn't exactly unknown in our culture -- what exactly would extraterrestrial visitors unfamiliar with Christianity make of medieval European art? For that matter, what do present day European Christians make of Hieronymus Bosch?

So my guess is, critics 200 years hence will look at these two works, decide they're art "by definition" (since some people previously claimed they were art), effectively writing them off by failing to provide explanations. Yes, dear, that's a mouse in place of a woman's head; no one knows why; it probably wasn't important.