The New York Times’ Roberta Smith has issued an impassioned cry to save the Folk Art Museum. As the critic tells it, a litany of failures have occurred, ranging from investing in a building no one wanted to enter to last year’s hiring of Director Maria Ann Conelli, a woman who had never headed a museum before and knew little of folk art.
Hopefully this story plays out differently than it did for The Jersey City Museum. Similarly crushed by renovation costs and a board that appointed the inexperienced Laurene Buckley as its head, the museum was forced to shut down. Its holdings are now a victim of bank foreclosure.
In the case of the Folk Art Museum, the Times reports that the board is looking to sell off its collection to either the Smithsonian Institution, the Brooklyn Museum, or some combination of the two. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen, as the Folk Art Museum housed some great curators and continually produced great shows. One such example was this year’s Infinite Variety quilt show at the Park Avenue Armory which offered a stunning array of red and white quilts, but also, earlier exhibitions showcasing the work of such great artists as Henry Darger and Adolf Wölfli. Darger was actually described in 2008 by artnet’s Ben Davis as a little too influential on contemporary artists. “The problem” he writes “is contemporary artists cannibalizingDarger's work for themes or miming his stylistic tics cannot hope tolive up to the lyrical strangeness of the original.”
Needless to say, the Folk Art Museum’s woes are not good news.