Monday, November 05, 2007

Silly, Sillier, and the Stupid Public

Ms. Gould, the local dilettante, returns.

Let's stipulate that Eckhart G. Grohmann is a generous man. The Milwaukee industrialist has given millions of dollars to the Milwaukee School of Engineering and donated his vast "Man at Work" collection of artwork to the school, along with a building to house it.

Damn nice of you to stipulate that, Whitney.

It's that largess, and MSOE's vital role in the community, that make it awkward to criticize the museum.

Awkward, yes.

Daunting? Hell, no!

Those shortcomings start with the building itself: a remade garage and former check-processing facility now capped with a heavy, Kaiserkopf dome and a ring of monumental bronze statuary perched along the roofline. The effect is rather like Old World Berlin as reinterpreted by Walt Disney

Really!!! Who cares, aside from Ms. Gould? Did she prefer the "Cadillac-dealer-garage" look which was near the original, or the "check-processing" look overlaid by the Federal Reserve? And is Ms. Gould going to engage a battle against ALL the 'kaiserkopf' domes in the entire City of Milwaukee?

That's the "silly" part of her non-apology.

Then we have the Reprise of Part One: of the artists most heavily represented in the collection, with 81 works, is Erich Mercker (1891-1973), who was commissioned by the Third Reich to record its muscular infrastructure

...At least two other artists in the collection also had Nazi ties

In fact, almost every ethnic German living in Germany during the Third Reich had "Nazi ties," willingly or not. Does Ms. Gould want Bayer Aspirin to print notices of their cooperation with Hitler on all their aspirin tablets? Or just the bottles? Should Volkswagen Beetles have swastikas painted over their hoods? What about all those ex-Nazi engineers, like Werner Von Braun, who created and managed US rocketry and ballistic-missile programs?

You'd never know any of this from visiting the museum.

Maybe because Grohmann did NOT want a memorial to Hitler?

Well, yes, in fact. It was NOT a memorial to Hitler nor any other politician, good or evil:

The new Grohmann Museum, at 1000 N. Broadway, is home to some 700 paintings, sculptures and other art objects celebrating physical labor from the 16th century onward.

Ms. Gould's monomaniacal fixation continues:

There are no swastikas, no storm troopers in these paintings. But very little supporting information, either. The label for a 1940 Mercker painting of quarry workers, for example, alludes to the Chancellery connection without even mentioning Hitler; many of Mercker's other works are undated and also lack context...

...some of the figures portrayed in paintings from the war years likely were slave laborers.

"Slave labor," yes. Like the Pyramids, the cotton fields of the South, and a good deal of current output from Communist China. (For that matter, a lot of Roman (now Italian) infrastructure, and infrastructure of the Middle East.)

But again, the POINT was to highlight labor, thus indirectly showcasing the value of MSOE and other colleges of engineering which have endeavored to reduce labor-input through invention. Is this so hard to understand?

But let's move on to "sillier:"

But the lack of documentation for a great many works there is troubling. And the museum's failure to rectify this situation, by adding professional curators or art historians to its staff, is astonishing.

...I'm not urging that the Nazi-era works be censored, rather that the museum acquire the expertise to research and disclose the lineage of all its holdings, so that viewers can judge them intelligently.

...which remark leaves little doubt about Ms. Gould's statist mindset. Oh, yes, Mr. Grohmann, you are generous. It is your museum. It is, in fact, in private hands, and managed accordingly.

But how DARE you not hire "professional curators or art historians" (at your expense, of course) for this project?

After all, the public is (how shall we put this delicately)....pretty damn stupid, and without professional curators or art historians, they'll view this collection as if it were some 700 paintings, sculptures and other art objects celebrating physical labor from the 16th century onward.

It goes without saying that Ms. Gould's next remark has no relationship whatsoever to all the foregoing:

I love music, but that doesn't qualify me to be a symphony conductor.

And when was the last time that the conductor of the MSO condescendingly told the audience the politics of Lizst? Beethoven? Mozart? Wagner? Bach? And which member of that audience stood up and DEMANDED to KNOW those inclinations?


Go back to flogging Blue Shirts.

P.S.: The Shark agrees with Ms. Gould in one small regard. I don't concur, but hey--the Shark's a good read no matter.

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