Sunday, June 16, 2019

The Museum of Bad Art

It is amazing what one finds when trolling the internet.  I was looking for interesting art exhibitions at art museums around the country when I happened upon, “The Museum of Bad Art”.  Of course, I thought it was a joke, so I wrote to them and sure enough received a response from Michael Frank, Curator-in-Chief Museum of Bad Art.  The museum's catchphrase? "Art too bad to be ignored." I guess it is true, “there are no new ideas under the sun”!

The concept for the museum was born in 1994 when an art and antiques dealer, Scott Wilson, found a painting in a pile of trash and picked it up so he could unframe it and sell the latter and again discard the painting.  A friend of his, Jerry Reilly, saw the painting and asked if he could acquire it with the frame.  When Mr. Wilson found an equally unsuccessful work Mr. Reilly again acquired it and the latter started his Museum of bad art in his basement.

Mr. Reilly’s wife, Marie Jackson, started to write brief blurbs about the art they were collecting so their friends could better understand it and they made a CD-Rom as a virtual museum. The photographer, Tom Stankowicz and Mr. Reilly’s sister, Louise Reilly Sacco all became founders of the museum.  Amazingly enough, they were able to gain the attention of Rolling Stone and Wired magazines and even the Wall Street Journal and the museum moved to the basement of a 1927 art-house movie theater outside of Boston.  It was always open when there was a movie on.

When Michael Frank was asked, what were the criteria for bad art that would be accepted by the museum, he gave the ageold explanation used by the courts regarding pornography. “I know it when I see it”.  I would find this difficult to accept were it not for the fact that the question what is art has never been successfully answered though many a bottle of ink has been spilled on the subject, so how can good or bad art be defined.  My father gave me a book called “A child of Six could do it” regarding abstract expressionism and the like but happily the museum that has some 700 works in its permanent collection does not collect works by children.

They are looking for works “created by someone seriously attempting to make an artistic statement-one that has gone horribly awry in either concept of execution”. Just because an artist has poor technique does not ensure acceptance by the museum and the conditions go on such as no works on black velvet or art made for the tourist trade.  

I don’t think you will have any problem recognizing bad art, at least not what is on their website.  For Instance, under the section called “Poor Traits”, is an anonymous painting titled “Welcome to the New World”.  The museum’s description is as follows “An Aztec emperor (possibly Montezuma) introduces the no-look high-five to a new friend who, judging from his suntan, has only recently arrived in the tropics”. Yes, and the wall label goes on from there!

In the section “In The Nood” I found “Chiquita” purchased in a thrift store in Boston.  Here part of the description is “Oblivious to the advancing lava flow, the lovely iconic tropical spokeswoman calmly gives us an alluring wink of the eye as all hell breaks loose behind her”.

My final image is from “The Sports Section” called “Yoga Class” which was found in the donor’s apartment building lobby. It is described briefly “We see an unidentified woman achieving the rarely attempted downwardly-mobile pigeon pose”.

I think that the Harvard Review summed the museum up beautifully, “MOBA is Affordable, Amusing, and a good place to share a laugh”.

Wait a moment, If you are already in your cars heading to the museum, please make a U-Turn at the next safe intersection and return home.  At this time the museum is closed for renovation with no reopening date scheduled!  You can, however, go to their website or find them on Facebook.

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