POST BY PADDY JOHNSON
ICA chief curator Helen Molesworth, who is interested in the points where politics and art meet, has on her resume a traveling retrospective of Luc Tuymans and “ACT UP New York: Activism, Art and the AIDS Crisis, 1987-1993” at Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
This is big news, albeit old: In January 2010, Jill Medvedow, director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, secured Helen Molesworth, curator of contemporary art at Harvard Art Museum, as the senior curator at the ICA in Boston. Today, The Boston Globe publishes a four page feature on why this is important.
“She is one of the great curators of our time. I will get on a plane to go see a show curated by Helen,'' says her friend Madeleine Grynsztejn, director of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art.
“I and many others think she is absolutely one of the smartest and most talented people in the business,'' chimes in Connie Butler, chief curator of drawings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
I don’t have the same depth of experience to draw on as Butler and Grynsztejn, but she left a great impression when I met her last year at the Hauser and Wirth Kaprow Yard exhibition. During the press preview she explained that Kaprow had entirely changed the direction of her work, leading her into the conceptual exhibitions she’s now known for putting together. The William Pope L. portion of the show I later reviewed for The L Magazine, was not without flaws, but still amongst the more engaging I’d seen that year.
Needless to say, it seems unlikely that the museum will be launching more Shepard Fairey exhibitions under her watch, which is a good thing. As Christopher Knight observes in his generous 2009 review on Culture Monster, the artist possesses limited pictorial vocabulary, and work that is “jejeune” relative to similarly conceived works by that of Chris Burden.
According the Globe, Molesworth has more interesting projects in the works,
Molesworth is working on a survey of art made in the 1980s that will open at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and travel to the ICA. “She's one of the first curators to take a stab at the '80s when other curators have been afraid to,'' says Butler.
Why the 1980s, now? Molesworth believes many aspects of art and society today have roots in that period. She points out that the recent global financial crisis had roots in the policies of Reagan and Thatcher and what she calls the “dismantling of Keynesian economics.'' She adds that the feminist art of that decade has not yet been addressed in a major survey show. And she notes that the '80s were the last years in which New York was the unchallenged center of the art world.
This is a show I’ll be traveling to see, though given it’s relevance to the New York art world I don’t see why one of the major museums in this city shouldn’t play host as well. I have a feeling this could be a landmark exhibition.