On Nov. 16 I had the chance to drop by the National Gallery’s small exhibition on
Ellsworth Kelly’s color paper compositions. At first I was excited because a couple years ago I saw a Kelly show in New York. The exhibition there was brilliant. It was a huge retrospective set up like a maze. The show told the story of his plant drawings and how they came to be.
The drawing are simple, like most of Kelly’s work –just black squiggly lines on paper. Still it was amazing and one I visited several times.
This exhibition was nothing like the one I saw before. This was thrown together and shoved into a little room in the east building. It seemed thoughtless, poorly researched, not educational or inspiring. In short, it was virtually soulless. I understand that the show was mainly a filler exhibit. The east wing, where it was shown is due to close this month for renovations. That said, it was still advertised by the museum as an on-going show and an attraction for museum visitors. My thoughts here, are that if a museum is going to curate an exhibition that is obviously terrible, first don’t display it. Secondly, if you do show it, don’t advertise it as a key exhibition.
As someone who has worked in a museum, I understand that curators are often preoccupied with larger exhibitions. Sometimes they will even pawn off smaller exhibits on their interns, which, generally turn out alright. Those, however, would not be main attractions for the museum, but little display cases shoved in some corner of the museum. The Kelly show was two rooms. Even though it was meant to be a small exhibit, it was not what I expected from a museum as prestigious as the National Gallery.