A multimedia exhibition that challenges reality, questions authenticity, and ignites discussions about the power of museums to bestow objects with “high” or “low” value, Kirk Varnedoe: In the Middle at the Modern will reflect on Varnedoe’s contributions to curatorial practice and examine the first major exhibition he organized as chief curator of painting and sculpture at MoMA, High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture (October 7, 1990–January 15, 1991), with the hindsight of three decades.
Blending personal biography with art historical scholarship to explore the controversial—and incontrovertible—influence of former MoMA curator Kirk Varnedoe on the art world today, this exhibition uses fabricated objects in the form of altered historical documents, sculptural recreations, photographs, sets, animations, modified posters, ephemera, and wall texts to immerse audiences in a multisensory show that is about art yet largely devoid of “true” art objects. Triple Candie’s curatorial directive is to raise questions about art and the often unquestioned ideas surrounding it, like originality, authenticity, influence, history, formal value and biography-as-value.
Kirk Varnedoe (American, 1946-2003) is a figure deeply connected to Telfair Museums and Savannah, famed as a native to the city and both a local and national art legend. In his role as Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at MoMA (1988-2001), he set in motion huge debates that continue in the field of contemporary art today—a narrative that weaves together how Kirk’s upbringing shaped his values (social and scholarly), interests, motivations and choices alongside strategies Varnedoe employed to navigate MoMA’s thorny political landscape and Varnedoe’s philosophy of incremental change.
Kirk Varnedoe: In the Middle at the Modern presents an exhibition not only about the work and influence of Kirk Varnedoe, but also about the nature of exhibitions themselves. For instance, how do museums place value on art objects, and how might this affect how visitors behave around them? Does “authenticity” make an object more valuable, even if the surrogate allows visitors to engage with the original more deeply? What is more real: the object, or the feeling it is meant to convey? These questions form the foundation for Triple Candie’s work, introducing audiences to a whole new way of experiencing art and exhibitions, placing visitors not on one side of the debate, but in the middle of it.
Exhibition overview from museum website