Art As Playground - The Year of Big Fun Art

Joanne Artman Gallery
Apr 28, 2018 10:09PM

Everyone has finally noticed the trend towards bigger, more experiential and user-friendly art installations. Often designed in collaboration with big ad agencies or marketing firms, these immersive, millennial-geared art attractions are becoming more and more popular with the art and culture crowd, drawing massive lines, and popping up all over your instagram. Much like Pop art when it first arrived onto the scene, these experiential installations seem poised to upend the established status quo by presenting art and culture experiences that are playful and immersive, inviting participation.

Installation view of The Egg House (Image courtesy of @theegghouse)

This year’s roster of instagram-ready art attractions make last year’s much talked about Museum of Ice Cream seem quaint. Opened this month, The Egg House is one example, an instagram ready collaborative project that follows the journey of Ellis the Egg, inviting visitors to join in on various egg-tivities throughout an egg themed home.

At the close of 2017, art critic Ben Davis penned the decisively titled State of the Culture, Part I: Museums, ‘Experiences,’ and the Year of Big Fun Art. The article, published on artnet News, sought to explain the slow, almost imperceptible shift in the art and media landscape over the course of 2017 towards “experiences”, and the effect of this shift on the various players of the art world: museums, galleries, artists and critics. Davis also provides a closer look at how this all happened, tracing the origins of the business model to the ways in which fine art has been historically presented. From nineteenth century exhibitions that turned art viewing into a populist spectacle to the contemporary, more minimalist space. While popular nineteenth century American painters such as Frederic Edwin Church presented their large scale landscape works to awe-struck audiences, and often included dramatic drawn rope drapes during the unveiling, modern institutions like MoMA came to prefer to present modern art in a rarefied, church-like atmosphere, putting the emphasis on the preciousness of the art object.

Frederic Edwin Church,Heart of the Andes,Oil on Canvas, 1859, 66 1/8 x 119 ¼ inches

Taken together with contemporary selfie culture, the shift towards using the mobile internet for basically all daily tasks, and the general snubbing of industrialized culture (like the slow demiseof Hollywood blockbuster cinema), this cultural shift has created what Davis calls (perhaps to his detriment) the “selfie factories” of the current art environment. “Big Fun Art” is for the masses, and maybe for the good, as it does not discriminate based on historical knowledge or age, the only requirement being patience of waiting in line.

Pete Miser
Bitches Is Crazy
Joanne Artman Gallery

So what does this mean for the gallery or museum goer? Is Big Fun Art a lucrative marketing ploy, a testament on the current state of culture, or something in between? Maybe the answer is nothing quite so nefarious. After all, these “art experiences”, though seemingly new, are not all that different in intentionality from more traditional forms of art that also tap into our collective consciousness through references to popular culture (such as Miser’s satirically provocativeBitches is Crazy). From this perspective, something like the Museum of Ice Cream, despite its evident placement amongst the top ten most photographed museums in the world (including the Met and the Louvre), does not mean the end of culture as we know it. So maybe the answer remains to be seen, as our definition of “art” and “experience” change at pace with trends in media and culture, evolving with our use of technology and democratizing the art and culture arena for young newcomers.

Pete Miser is represented at JoAnne Artman Gallery

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Joanne Artman Gallery