the Collapsible KUNSTHALLE 



Notes on creation of the Kunsthalle

I was musing on some of the ins and outs of exhibitions recently. When I was in college in the 70s, the theoretical aspects of the artworld was still largely dominated by critics — the end-run of the Greenbergian era. That was one of the reasons I began to write, to wrest back some of their opinion-making political clout into the hands of at least one artist. (That’s probably why publications often refer to me as "an artist who writes," rather than as an "artist and critic" or the like).

Times have changed. Now the artworld is controlled, at least for the nonce, by curators, as I’m certain is well known by all. I have seldom enjoyed the activity of actually curating exhibitions in the few instances in which I performed this activity. It was simply too exasperating, detail oriented, even boring. Artists can be extremely difficult as well. I enjoyed creating ideas for shows, even writing catalogue essays and giving opening speeches, which I still do on occasion. While contemplating these facts, I remembered Dave Muller’s "Three Day Weekend" approach, where he carries around artwork by various people whenever he goes somewhere, and makes quick and temporary exhibitions — he has what I call the "Shut Up and Do It Yourself" quasi-Punk attitude. All these thoughts lead me to come up with an idea.

I decided to become the curator of a "venue" of some sort, one that was real, not "virtual" (i.e. not documentation, not computer, whatever — the real object, and not "yellow pages art" to use Mark Francis’s wonderful phrase), yet one which I could carry around in a small case and take with me as I go around the world, to different countries and so on, which I do frequently. First, I thought of a Laptop Museum, of some kind, but that kept getting back to ideas of a "virtual" nature, some sort of documentation on CD or the like. Then I looked at one of the action figures of super-heroes I have in my home. It hit me — I could make a dollhouse type "space", but a collapsible one, so I could carry it in a case. With real, but very little works. I then remembered that Marcel Duchamp had made a tiny version of his Nude Descending a Staircase for the dollhouse of a friend. It’s about thumb-sized and in the Stettheimer dollhouse now in the City Museum of New York. I thought, this is it! I worked from the standard European paper size of A3 (double letter size) and evolved a collapsible space which would be that size when folded together in a case. I made it, then remade it together with a cabinetmaker. I bought a leather attaché case to put it in and hand-lettered the name on the side (my father was a sign painter, by the way): The Collapsible Kunsthalle™.

I call it a "Kunsthalle" because it will have no collection — the works I am showing will be returned to the artists. I won’t sell anything (unless an important museum wants to buy the whole shebang, when I’ll contact everyone and discuss what we should do). Of course most works have to be custom made for my "space," but the size makes that less trouble. The scale works out to 1:15. That’s about half-Barbie/G.I. Joe-size, or normal small super-hero action figure-size. I ask the artists I invite to truly try to stay near the actual scaled-down dimensions of their work (not suddenly make a relative "mural" even though they usually paint very small, for instance).They can do something smaller of course, just not a heck of a lot bigger, or I couldn’t fit enough works in.

I will drag the Collapsible Kunsthallearound with me and show it wherever I am, whenever I am also having a show, or visiting, showing it to "real" curators whom I meet, in other countries and so on. I think it will be fun AND attract attention to work of artists I admire. It will be, hopefully, a mix of well-known, known and lesser-known artists.



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