H. de Roos - The critique of the toronto exhibition


The Canadians As Foster Parents For The Rudier Foundry Plasters

The willingness to "adopt" art works, to act as "foster parents", to "speak for the art work", to "notice new things about it" - although it may look like something we know already-, is not an question left to the artists and their public. Since it touches on economic interests as well, professional art critics, scholars, galleries and public art institutions see it as their job to shape and influence our definition and perception of art, to defend and expand the meaning, significance or value of the works they deal with, display and possess.

Defining what is "art" and what is not, and what work of art may be called "original", "authentic", "meaningful", "innovative" or "revealing" is the outcome of debate and conflict in the art industry.

As we can see from Chatelain´s text, even with a sculptor like Rodin, whose creations can easily be distuinguished from everyday objects, defining what is authentic and worth collecting is a vital element of institutional strategies, aiming for influence, prestige and market shares:

The Paris museum that administers the estate of the artist, who died in 1917, has complained that the exhibition's various plaster sculptures are not true Rodins. But their complaint is not that the works don't look the way Rodin would have wanted them to, or that the sculptures are significantly different from casts they label "authentic"; it's that the Barrie works may not quite abide by the complex traditions, rules and laws that determine what counts as an original version of an editioned art work -- a category which includes cast sculptures, but also most fine-art prints, as well as photographs, videos and other contemporary multiples, (...). The Musée Rodin's complaints have almost nothing to do with artistic issues; they are about who gets to regulate the flow of money and power through the art world.

[From: Blake Gopnik, What is the Rodin fuss really about? Money, 29 Aug. 2001,
in Toronto Globe and Mail]

Criticizing the high entrance price of the R.O.M. exhibition not only expresses social concern about the visitor´s expenses: it is another way of saying, the Canadian collection is worthless and irrelevant, compared to the treasures of Meudon.

But while the Canadian collection indeed is a dwarf against the giant Meudon collection, the Maclaren and the R.O.M. have managed to launch a story that props up its significance and promises something new and revealing can be discovered: the look "behind the scenes", the "earthy side" of Rodin´s genius, as William Thorsell called it.

The Canadians as "foster parents" of these silent plasters, the curators speaking for their "adopted children": not everyone is happy with this parental care. As we will see from another article by Sarah Milroy, this leads to further questions on the original, originality, and value.





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