Can New Yorkers Really be Offended By Gay Artists? Ask MoMa

 I find this kind of crazy – and insulting. 

Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern notes some troublesome closeting by the Museum of Modern Art:

The Museum of Modern Art currently has on
display a wonderful, compact installation titled simply “Johns and
Rauschenberg.” Featuring art culled from the museum’s permanent
collection, “Johns and Rauschenberg” focuses on works painted by each
artist during the mid to late 1950s, using Robert Rauschenberg’s
recently acquired Canyon as a centerpiece. 

The introductory placard
describes the two artists as being “in dialogue with one another,”
explaining how their works from this period led the way “beyond Abstract
Expressionism” and toward Pop Art. At the heart of the installation is
the relationship between the two men, an intensely collaborative yet
highly competitive connection which pushed each artist toward his own
artistic triumph.

It’s a nice narrative, as far as it goes. But
it doesn’t go nearly far enough. Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns were
lovers during this six-year period of collaboration, and their
relationship had a profound impact on their art.

Stern thinks the MoMa is concerned about offending its patrons. Seriously? Isn’t New York one of the most progressive, accepting cities in the US???  Meanwhile, everyone seems to be toeing their line:

In an attempt to justify this re-closing
of the artistic closet
, MoMA’s press office first informed me that Johns
and Rauschenberg “wish to be described” as just friends.

died in 2008; Johns is 82.) When I asked whether the artists
specifically requested such a label, the museum’s representative walked
back the claim, instead stating that they “have been referred to that
way [as friends, that is] historically,” but the rep would not say
whether the artists themselves insisted on the “friends” phrasing.
Neither would the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, which officially had
“no reply” to the question, or the Matthew Marks Gallery, Johns’ dealer,
which failed to respond to repeated inquiries.


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