Museum Legs

Amy Whitaker at Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, COOn a crisp fall evening in the American West, snow-capped mountains rose above the South Platte River in Denver’s historic LoDo district where the American artist, entrepreneur, and writer, Amy Whitaker, took the stage at Tattered Cover Bookstore to read from her debut book, Museum Legs: Fatigue and Hope in the Face of Art.  Museum Legs is a collection of essays that starts with a question: Why do people get bored and tired in art museums and why does that matter?

Museum Legs is the first book published by Hol_Art_Books, an independent press dedicated to publishing and promoting exceptional writing on visual arts.  Its title taken from a term for art fatigue, Museum Legs contains critical essays that chronicle the development of the museum.  Sprinkled with humorous anecdotes and factual data, Whitaker writes why museums matter for reasons that have less to do with art and more to do with business, politics and lifestyle.

At Tattered Cover, Whitakaker took hold of the crowd with a buoyant reading from her essay “On Boredom” opening with the line, “Boredom is one of the most inherently interesting topics around...”.  The reading took a deeper, more incisive turn as she went on to quote from Hugh Kenner’s 1972 essay in the book Museums in Crisis wherein he “sounded the death knell” and suggested: “the history of twentieth-century art may someday appear to have been simply a death struggle with the museum.” 

Whitaker’s discussion was resoundingly current in the face of the recent backlash against the New Museum.  Though the museum’s staff have been working hard to re-awaken New York’s downtown emerging art community with contemporary-themed exhibitions, they seem to be garnering national press regarding the museum’s politics and ethics as much as about the works of art they display.  Days before Whitaker’s talk the museum featured on the front page of the New York Times with an article concerning their forthcoming exhibition devoted to the contemporary art collection of one of it’s trustees, the Greek shipping magnate Dakis Joannou, and curated by Jeff Koons, whose art features prominently in the collection. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/11/arts/design/11museum.html

Following on from Tattered Cover, Whitaker appeared at The Dikeou Collection, founded by Denver born artist, Devon Dikeou, located off the city’s 16th Street Mall. Speaking before an intimate group of curators, artists and museum-goers (and one candidate for state treasurer) she read from her essay “Ladies Who Launch” that chronicles the history of America’s early modern museums as art projects, themselves products of bold entrepreneurial vision.  The Museum of Modern Art and The Whitney Museum of American Art were both established and founded by women and like the Dikeou, were closely tied to the lives of living artists and the creative vision of their founders.

Whitaker continues a self-navigated cross-country book tour and will appear on Dec 4th at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. http://www.warhol.org/calendar/events_detail.php?eventID=1764&dateYear=2009&dateMonth=12&dateDate=4

 (l) Devon Dikeou with Museum Legs author, Amy Whitaker, at The Dikeou Collection, downtown Denver, CO

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