Wednesday 8 October 2008

MACBA Collection @MACBA, Barcelona

The selection of art from the MACBA’s permanent collection currently on display bills itself as a thorough overview of the fundamental aspects of Contemporary Art. However—back on planet Earth—what this exhibition actually showcases is a number of second-rate works from some of the most important and innovative figures in contemporary art from the 20th century, nestled among their lesser-known Spanish and Catalan counterparts.

The exhibition is, for the most part, terribly underwhelming but it does have its moments. For example, rarely have Andy Warhol’s colour polaroids Self-Portrait in Drag been seen outside of the US. The two photographs featured here reflect his repeated desire to assume an alternate self-image, to transcend his real self, which was tied to his decidedly feminine pursuit of glamour and a longstanding interest in artifice, role-playing and the construction of identity. A different type of performance comes courtesy of mad hatter artist Vito Acconci who has filmed himself burning the hair off his nipples with a candle in the work Conversions. Like many artists of his generation for whom art is more an activity than a product, Acconci’s work is restrained yet powerful and always affords the viewer an intense sensory experience. Elsewhere, Ad Reinhardt’s Buffalo ranks among the best of the rest. At first glance, the abstract Expressionist painting appears to be canvas simply painted in black but which, upon closer inspection, quickly reveals itself as being composed of symmetrically placed squares against a background of a similar colour.

The presentation in the Capella of a number of “classic” works of international minimalism by Donald Judd,Dan Flavin,Robert Mangold, Daniel Buren and Larry Bello comes across as a mere afterthought, and the works of art themselves are nothing but shallow emblems in a show that seems to be trying to be one of the least interesting cultural events of the moment.

Col·lecció MACBA
Until January 6th 2009