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The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s New Temporary Outdoor Sculpture “STAND” is Awesome, But The Way They Talk About It Isn’t

January 24, 2019

10 new cast-iron blockwork sculptures appeared at the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s famous steps this week, the work of British artist Antony Gormley. A temporary installation that will be on view now through June 16, 2019, each sculpture is spaced evenly apart and together they’re titled STAND.

STAND offers an opportunity to reflect on our status as urban animals, our common ground with the artworks, and how context influences our thinking,” the museum’s website reads. Ok…

Honestly, as much as I really like this installation, I can’t help but roll my eyes a bit at how it’s being sold to us. The museum’s overview of the piece goes on to read: “In these metal bodies, each over ten feet tall, Gormley has replaced anatomy with the language of architecture, using cantilevers, propping, and pier-and-lintel construction, the interplay of masses creating the balance of form and feeling.” What?! 

Maybe it’s because I didn’t go to art school, but I mean this installation is clearly meant to represent the crowds that climb these stairs daily and pose/reflect at the top. Why is the museum making it so hard for me to care about this piece?

I wish I understood what the artist, the curator, and the museum actually thought about their installation and its location, but I can’t grab on to too much from their website’s overly processed copy. I don’t want to be talked down to with artist/ project/ curatorial statements, but please at least make some real effort to communicate with me, especially when your work is in the public space and meant for the masses.

Gah, I’m so bummed. I was so pumped to see and photograph this installation earlier this week. But when I started gathering the information to build this post today, I just got so annoyed. Am I alone? Feel free to comment, maybe I’m off base or missing something.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2019 2:54 am

    I’m with you. Tell me what the artist said about his/her vision, plans, intention… But if you make it so esoteric as to seem artificial – you piss me off, turn me off from the work, and I’ll either avoid the work or intentionally focus on anything other than your spin. (Which I recognize makes me sound like a recalcitrant teenager, but I’m being real here.)

  2. January 25, 2019 4:06 am

    Don´t mind! Just like physicians and lawyers, art people have made up their own language, and they love to use it extensively. They need that gibberish to feel like real scientists/specialists and to be able to distance themselves from the stupid non-doctor, non-lawyer, non-artist rest of mankind. ;-)

  3. January 25, 2019 8:51 am

    Best be getting yourself to art school stat! Nah. I feel the same way about whatever the “Delaware River Waterfront Corporation” is. I love water. Water is life. The river is a serene beauty, but when you visit their website, you’re greeted with a child, corporate cookie cutter, bland thing with stock photos and no life.

  4. January 25, 2019 10:52 am

    The museum description is kind of whatever but I don’t think it’s taking away from the installation itself. I feel like in writing this post, you’ve demonstrated that anyone might still get the message (or *a* message) from the physical art on its own, and that the way the site/museum goes about its written presentation doesn’t clash with the presence of the blockheads themselves. If it were me working in a spatial medium, I might anticipate my description being seen beyond the Philly art scene where people otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience it in person, and so I might try to go with more academic stuff like connecting the art with other themes (architecture or sociology ie “urban animals”).

  5. January 28, 2019 1:09 pm

    When PMoA had the International Pop exhibit they had pieces influenced by Nude Descending a Staircase No.2 from their regular collection-showing human movements deconstructed into the mechanical. I wouldn’t have known that except from overhearing a docent’s conversation. Maybe this is a similar call back?
    https://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/51449.html

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