I’ve heard some art quilters wonder why their work is not shown in or collected by museums. But have you looked to see what the museums of contemporary art are actually showing now? Videos and installations seem to be the norm. I have many friends who are wonderful painters and their work isn’t in museums either.
A better question might be why are the galleries not showing quilts?
And definitely some are…but galleries show what sells. In my experience quilts sell mainly to two groups: quilters, and commercial venues like health centers or offices. The purchase of art work by commercial areas has, in many states, completely dried up with the recession. More and more we are approached by local health centers and commercial venues to loan them work; they present this as being an opportunity to show our work! and it’s not just quilters, by the way..but painters and other artists too.
The big galleries always prefer to work with “known” names. To get into them requires a number of things of which luck and whom you know loom large. I remember Polly Apfelbaum saying that she would not have had the recognition she has had, and the shows she had were it not for her husband’s position in the art world. The book I bought Andy Warhol by Richard Polsky is a pretty scary picture of Big Art: it’s all about name recognition and nothing to do with Truth and Beauty!! Various reviews of the book testify to its authenticity:
“ Having been a dealer/collector on a comparatively modest scale for many years, I found many of the traits of the (people described) to be recognizable. Only someone who has been there knows that the pursuit of a deal or hopeful investment is as important (sometimes more so) than any admiration you may have for the object of your pursuit. “
“[Polsky’s] accounts of the bizarre world of art dealing are true to a fault. … If you have ever bought a piece of art for more than $1000 or think you will at some time in the future, [the] book is must reading.”
The art world is both territorial and also follows its own traditional business practices. Even within the quilting art world, I have heard of at least two major collectors who limit their purchases according to some specific prerequisite. Not quite as bad as only buying work from artists whose name begins with a particular letter or who were wearing red knickers when they made the piece, but not far off!
Quilters are very good at purchasing quilts and are a great support, but it’s very rare that someone who is not involved with the medium actually buys an art quilt as something to beautify their home. Is this because they are prejudiced against quilts? I think it’s more likely that it’s because they don’t buy ANY art. Go into the average home and see how much real art is on the walls. Very little. It’s really sad.
And if you did want an art work, in the decorating shows on television, the interior “designers” often show you how to “make” an art work for yourself: “stretch a piece of fabric on bars, take some house paint and throw it on, and bingo!! you have a work of art!”. They buy a $6000 sofa and add a home made daub on the wall above it.
So: if you want to get into a museum..make a video about making a quilt, preferably with a lot of slow motion close-ups and then show it upside down, or mix it with images of abused women. Another possibility would be to make an installation that was all quilts, that had some point other than “how wonderful these quilts are”. So I suggest that the quilts first be dragged behind a truck for 200 miles to represent how women and art are both badly treated in many nations, then hang the tatters and strew them on the floor. You might throw a few used condoms around too, indicative of the prevention of creativity in our educational systems.
If only I were joking….
And, if you have been, thanks for reading. Elizabeth