Yikes: poor Jorge Pardo, and poor major collection of Precolumbian objects.... Who at LACMA was on crack and agreed to fund this? Holland Cotter hits the nail on the head regarding what must be one of the worst curatorial design decisions of the century (note the dig at Paris's Quai Branly). Here are the key ideas, buried mid-way through the article. In brief, we are (still) possessed of a cross-cultural blindness (but when it comes to our own culture and chattels, we tend to get all over-sensitive).
But the logic of her [Virginia Fields, LACMA curator of pre-Columbian art] arrangement becomes hard to follow because the art itself is hard to see. The stripes and curves distract from objects; the colors suddenly change their look. The green in particular leaches visually into terra-cotta sculptures, giving them a liverish cast. And why this green anyway? To evoke a primal jungle setting à la Quai Branly in Paris? If so, bad idea.
These days, design is a mainstream art-world hobbyhorse and political correctness is seriously uncool. (It always has been; people are just more relaxed about dissing it now.) So we’re probably not supposed to ask questions like: How come self-aggrandizing designs like Mr. Pardo’s, which obscure rather than enhance objects and their meanings, end up being applied to non-Western objects but only rarely to their Western counterparts?
Would the museum hang, say, Rembrandt or Degas or its stunningly yawnsome Broad collection in Mr. Pardo’s clamorous setting? If the answer is yes, great. By all means do it. Truly break some museological ground. But if the answer is no, or if there’s even a hesitation, the problem becomes obvious.
[from Ancient Art, Served on a Present-Day Platter, 8/28/08]