Children's Museum of Indianapolis several weeks ago and just saw the Richard Avedon fashion retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and combined, they provided much food for thought. Although I might guess that the cross-over audience isn't necessarily much larger than me. The Barbie exhibit had raised so many issues for me and then, combined with the Avedon exhibit made me think about the ways in which museum exhibits, intentionally or not, convey messages about our culture. And as a visitor, sometimes you can only guess what those messages are intended to be.
The Power of Children: Making a Difference takes on big, complex issues through the stories of Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges and Ryan White. To its substantial credit, it's not as if this museum is afraid of challenging content for their visitors.
Avedon Fashion 1944-2000 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (the show was organized by the International Center for Photography). There's some similarities to the Barbie show--it's about women, and fashion, and certainly both shows are about consumerism, about material goods. But I left this show feeling that I experienced entirely different perspectives on women in the second half of the 20th century. Barbie is somebody's idea of perfection--and although Richard Avedon's images of women are breathtakingly gorgeous, they are not perfect. And certainly Avedon's job was to sell us clothes, or the idea of a life women could have if they had the clothes.
Altered Barbie). The idea that one thing is art and the other is product? Art show vs. children's museum? (there's possibly an entire book about corporate sponsorship and children's museums that could be written). Corporate design vs. an individual artistic vision? or just what I brought to each exhibition?
But I hope that each exhibit team would be happy that after seeing the Avedon show, the three of us sat down over coffee to talk about the two shows and what they meant. Two former Barbie owners, two photographers, one exhibit developer, and all three museum-goers: we all brought our respective personal histories and viewpoints into the conversation. And that would make each, in its own way, a successful show.