MacCash misses the boat. Again.

Hey, New Orleans: is it just me, or is Doug MacCash a total douchebag?

I’ve had a beef with the guy for years–largely because of his policies on reviewing visual arts exhibitions. And let’s not even discuss his “taste level” (as a reviewer or as an artist). But now with Prospect.1, MacCash has given me a whole new set of things to complain about.

Full disclosure: I’m pretty close to Prospect.1, but even with that taken into account, it would seem to me, or to any fan of the visual arts, that MacCash simply doesn’t get what Prospect.1 is meant to be. More fundamentally: it seems MacCash has no idea what a biennial is meant to be.

Let’s go back to the weekend Prospect.1 opened. You know what got the cover focus of Lagniappe, the Picayune‘s arts and entertainment pullout? A haunted house. A freaking haunted house–instead of the largest international exhibition of contemporary art ever coordinated in the US. A freaking haunted house–instead of a major coup for the city of New Orleans and its citizens. A freaking haunted house–instead of a massive event that could drive tourism and the cultural economy for months to come.

Then there’s today’s article on the Universal Furniture building in the Bywater, which is being used for a P.1. exhibition of Pierre & Gilles’ work, as well as a group show by local artists. In his lead-in, MacCash says:

[Prospect.1] was a good news, bad news story for Crescent City artists. The good news: Big-time New York art curator Dan Cameron planned to produce the largest contemporary art show in U.S. history, drawing thousands of well-heeled collectors and art tourists. The bad news: The vast majority of New Orleans artists weren’t invited to be in it.

It’s as if MacCash’s understanding of the international art scene stops at the parish line. As if he’d expect the biennials at Venice or the Whitney to feature exclusively Venetian or New York artists, respectively. As if he’s disappointed to see leading contemporary artists from around the globe showing their work in New Orleans. For free.

As though that weren’t bad enough, MacCash then gives square footage to the ever-clueless Andy Antippas, who complains that P.1 is “elitist”. To which I say: WELL OF COURSE IT’S ELITIST: IT’S ABOUT THE BEST NEW WORK IN THE WORLD, BITCH.

My take: elitism is a necessary evil. It’s what keeps music, fashion, literature, design, food–everything moving forward. It’s what we do every time we say, “I’m over that, let’s move on.” You and I, we practice it ourselves every day. So, Mr. Antippas, yes, it’s elitist. BFD. You want to put together a show of grandmotherly string art from the YWCA, do it on your own dime.

New Orleans has moved beyond parochialism in so many ways, especially since The Storm. Sure, it lingers in the culinary arts, but we rule the school on that front: we can afford to be a little snooty. Visual arts, on the other hand? I mean, some of my best friends are artist, and there’s definitely some good stuff going on here, but c’mon…

1 Comment so far

  1. liprap on November 29th, 2008 @ 3:37 pm

    Speaking as a former COMPLETE crank about the prospect of the Biennial…

    I do give credit to P.1 for including local galleries, collectives, and other local artists in their planning that aren’t part of the "official" roster of 81. All one has to do is grab one of the free maps the biennial has at nearly every venue and open it up to look at all the other local folks’ places that are on there. I wonder if MacCash even bothered to look at that at all and go off the beaten path a little – because darn near every artist in this city with half a brain is grateful that P.1 is here.

    Besides, I don’t know where one could see such great work from all over for freaking FREE. That kicks ass and takes names all by itself.

    Has MacCash even seen the Fi-Yi-Yi and Willie Birch exhibits at the NOMA? Best of the best, with even Peter Schjeldahl admitting they are show-stealers.



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