What a Wes Anderson-Curated Exhibit Means for the Art World

If we have to accept it, Wes Anderson seems like our best option for a director-turned-curator. The man certainly has an eye. Between his stories of foxes and Tenebaums, trash dog isles and grand pink hotels, Anderson’s variegated palette is luminous without cheap glitz, sweetness without the saccharine.  With a meticulous attention to detail doted on each frame, Anderson’s work reminds you that films were once called “moving pictures.”

So, I suppose the reasoning went in the inner rooms of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum, give him literal frames. His box office earnings are a lucrative wave to hop on. In a time when both museum and movie theater attendance is waning, the former certainly earns the right to more self-deprecation. Statisa reports that museums and historical sites generate more than 13 billion in annual revenue in the U.S., with the number projected to increase to 15 billion this year. The comparable numbers for the film industry? 2016 saw 38 billion in revenue, with a projected increase to 50 billion by 2020.

Even an indie director could be a decent siphon for fans.

Anderson, in partnership with his longtime design partner Juman Malouf, will choose his favorite items already present in the Kunsthistorisches collection (coins and figurines from Greek and Roman antiquity, Old Master paintings, musical instruments and historical armory items, essentially whatever they manage to scrounge from the storage rooms) and curate them into something presumably Instagram-worthy.

Kameo, Portrait of an African Woman By Jan Vermeyen Collection of Antiquities, XII 806 Kunsthistorisches Museum
Vessel/Statuette, Bear as a hunter By Gregor Bair, Valentin Drausch, Heinrich Wagner Kunstkammer, 1094 Kunsthistorisches Museum

High profile, low production cost, and why not? Give him a collection of artistic and historical objects to curate—into a glittering parade of broaches, fans and chalices waltzing to Artie Shaw across a gallery wall in height order, perhaps—and watch the public flock. We’re obsessed with the world through celebrities’ eyes: where they shop, what’s on their plate, what they wear. (Kim Kardashian West got more likes on a poorly-focused picture of feet, maybe hers, than I would bet the Kunsthistorisches Museum has gotten in its Instagram lifetime.) If a celebrity frames something, on however cursory a whim or careful a plan, the people will follow. And imitate. And purchase

I think we’re going to start seeing a lot more of [High Profile Person] curates [Theme] at the [Museum] headlines. Who’s writing the caption becomes as important as what it says and what it labels. Museums will hire more celebrities than PhDs. Curators, believing in the art world’s esotericism, will stick to their books and earn their degrees and watch their dream projects be handed to someone with more Instagram followers.

“Kanye West will curate…”

J.K. That already happened. 


Exhibit Details:
Kunsthistorisches Museum
Vienna, Austria
November 6, 2018 – April 28, 2019

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