Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Box Malled In

Kindred Spirits by Asher B. Durand, 1849

Here's one of those point and nod posts. If you missed the essay "The Wal-Mart Biennale" by Rebecca Solint in Sunday's Los Angeles Times, spurred by the painting pixel-simulated above, you can read a longer version of it at

In the meantime here's a teaser to get you interested, with a particularly delicious second sentence:

Walton, it seems safe to assume, lives surrounded by nicer objects, likely made under nicer conditions, than she sells the rest of us. I have always believed that museums love artists the way taxidermists love deer. Perhaps Alice Walton is, in some sense, stuffing and mounting what is best about American culture -- best and fading. Perhaps Crystal Bridges [Museum of American Art, the Walton family museum she's building in Bentonville, Arkansas, the site of Wal-Mart's corporate headquarters] will become one of the places we can go to revisit the long history that precedes industrialization and globalization, when creation and execution were not so savagely sundered, when you might know the maker of your everyday goods, and making was a skilled and meaningful act. One of the pleasures of most visual art is exactly that linkage between mind and hand, lost elsewhere as acts of making are divided among many and broken down into multiple repetitive tasks.

Perhaps she could build us the Museum of When Americans Made Stuff Locally by Hand for People They Knew or perhaps that's what Crystal Bridges, along with the rest of such institutions, will become. Or Walton could just plan to open the Museum of When Americans Made Stuff at some more distant date, though less than half of what's in Wal-Mart, sources inform me, is still actually made here -- for now. The world's richest woman, however, seems more interested in archaic images of America than in the artisanry behind them.


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