“But there’s invariably something feeble and insincere about these gestures …. If it’s about sending a signal –Hey, we’re contemporary! We smell sexy! We’re not old! – what it more often reveals is a fundamental lack of conviction in the museum’s core collection. Encountering these shows you sometimes feel as if cheap air freshener has been squirted around a musty room.”
So much for the museum fad of interlacing ancient with contemporary works of art, as Sebastian Smee puts it in “Prada’s Shows Refresh Views of Ancient Art,” in a recent review in the Boston Globe. Read it, as he says of the exhibitions in Milan and Venice that he is reviewing, “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s a knock out.”
What the Prada folks have done, as Smee points out, is create an alternative to these museum acts of bad conscience – exhibitions that follow the steps of Walter Benjamin or Andy Warhol in taking seriously the artistic implications of replication. “Roman Copy,” seen this way, becomes not a put-down but a fresh look at the core of classical art.
Worth a read. Worth a look. If you have a spare air ticket good between now and August 24th, let’s go to Milan! If not, contemplating the mystery of the Tehran Penelope, even without seeing it on display at the Prada Foundation, may be some consolation.