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Fun and Fine Art: Why a Slide in a Museum Isn't Simple Frivolity
by Yasha Wallin
Revered art critic Jerry Saltz, is on the side of those who think fun equals dumbing down. When Swiss artist Carsten Holler's exhibition at New York's New Museum was unveiled last year, it included a mirrored merry-go-round that mimicked a hallucinatory experience, a sensory deprivation pool that encouraged the brave to strip and dive in, and a massive spiral slide jutting through two floors of the building. Saltz called the entire thing, "arty junk food." He accused museums who err on the side of play as, "bogusly turning themselves into smash-hit consumer circuses, box-office sensations of voyeurism and hipster showbiz." Yet halfway into the show's three-month run, the New Museum announced the exhibition had drawn more visitors per day than any other show in their history.
So the debate rages on. Personally, I wouldn't mind having both fun and introspection during a museum experience. If there were a way to barrel into an institution on a rickety roller coaster ride to then contemplate a Picasso, sign me up.
Images courtesy of Atelier Zundel Cristea; the New Museum