On the Met Breuer exhibition re: conspiracy (by someone who knows something on the subject)
A museum exhibition review
By Cat McGuire
November 5, 2018
An exhibit called Everything Is Connected: Art and Conspiracy is currently on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York at The Met Breuer. According to the curator, this apparently is the first time the art world has mounted a significant exhibition on the topic of conspiracies (even though much of the work presented is in The Met’s own collection).
The Met is arguably the high cathedral of culture in America—The New York Times of the art world if you will. Curious to hear their official perspective, on October 30, I got a ticket for one of the very few Exhibition Tours the show offered.
The one-hour walking lecture was led by one of the two curators, Douglas Eklund, Director of Photographs, who started work on the exhibit in 2010. He seemed proud of his prescience. Who knew eight years ago what a topical subject conspiracy theories would become?
That Eklund had been employed by The Met since the ‘90s tells me that this controversial subject had not been assigned willy-nilly. Eklund’s decisions surely had the full imprimatur of The Met. As such, for the purposes of my review of the show, fair or not, henceforth for me Eklund represents The Met incarnate.
Eklund was quite pleased by the sold-out crowd of 25 people, and several times during the tour remarked how no one was wandering away as tour goers often do. Almost everyone stayed with him to the end, indicating a strong degree of interest.
The exhibit features 30 artists and is divided into two distinct parts: theories that had proven to be largely true versus the Rabbit Hole (my capitalization, the show’s repeated use). The following explication from the entrance wall text does a good job of explaining the exhibit’s bifurcation:
The exhibition traces the simultaneous development of two kinds of art about conspiracy. Works based in historical research and investigative reporting open the show’s first half. The artists consider the factual nature of these works to be paramount. They uncover hidden layers of deceit beneath the bureaucratic complexity and often controlled media of postwar culture, hewing strictly to the public record to expose schemes such as the shell corporations of New York real estate investors and vast, interconnected networks encompassing politicians, businessmen, and arms dealers.
Works in the exhibition’s second half plunge down the rabbit hole, where facts and fantasy freely intermingle. No less thoroughly researched than those in the opening galleries, these works often aim to capture the interior ways in which people explain the world and their place in it with only partial information. Diving headlong into the fever dream of the disaffected, these artists create fantastical works that nevertheless unearth uncomfortable truths in an age of information overload and weakened trust in institutions.
The 3-minute video on the exhibit’s web page is worth watching both to see some of the art and to hear the curator’s spiel.
And now, on to the tour.