Saturday, April 09, 2005

Peter Schjeldahl at SFMOMA

by Gregg Chadwick

Peter Schjeldahl at SFMOMA
photo by Gregg Chadwick

Peter Schjeldahl, currently the art critic for the New Yorker, held a roundtable discussion with Neal Benezra, director SFMOMA, and Janet Bishop, curator of painting and sculpture SFMOMA, yesterday at the Wattis Theater in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His enthusiasm for art and artists was palpable. And his wit was in rare form. During the question and answer session following the discussion it was announced by an artist in the back rows of the Wattis Theater that painting was dead. Peter chuckled and then asked,” What kind of art do you do?" The artist responded that she was involved in art that utilized new technologies. Peter laughed again and blurted out, "Well, there you go, trying to kill off the competition." He neither dismissed the woman nor her art but instead pointed out the careerism hiding behind many art labels and preferences.

When I asked about the place of beauty in contemporary art, Peter leaned forward and spoke from the heart." This is an important, if not controversial, question that I write about often. In the 60s and 70s in academia it was the forbidden word. A group of art historians could look up at the blue sky and and declare it a beautiful day on their way to a conference on contemporary art. But once in the doors of the conference room, beauty ceased to exist." Peter concluded by stating, "Art does not have to address beauty- to reach for beauty. But it sure is great if it does."

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:42 AM

    Sounded like a great talk, I'm sorry I missed it. I like the "painting is dead" answer. I wonder what he would have responded if asked "Is art getting stupid?"