Private Tour with MoCA President - Phillpe Vergne: More Than Meets the Eye

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What an amazing way to start a Monday. A friend of of ours, Lea (with such an incredible soul) whom we met at the Special Olympics via a personal connection of her's catered a private tour with Museum director and President of MoCA, Phillpe Vergne as our personal tour guide. I was in complete shock - he rarely ever does this Lea had added. 

Upon arrival we were greeted by his assistants and taken to his office in the MOCA administration office. He had the most memorable handshake - stern and tight yet whimsical and jaunting. It was a handshake that I'm sure he was famous for.  His thick French accent coupled with a deftly spoken vernacular only added a tone of astuteness that precluded our art englightenment ahead. 

Right away, he mentally toured us  on the present history of art, the definition of ART as the museum would contest it to be.  The museum only curates art that is considered ground breaking - avant garde - breaking the rules of the present art and doing things that have never been done before. He recalled an experience of a museum visitor's reaction, one I hear quite often and one I have been guilty of myself, "how can this be art? This is shit! My son can do it himself!" Phillpe responded calmly and clever "Well if your son can make it shouldn't you appreciate it that much more? Shouldn't we celebrate this piece even more? I think my job curating this piece is complete."  

Philippe's knowledge is likened to a walking art history book - as expected. He was sought out by the Moca board of trustees and received a unanimous and resounding yes for being appointed. He had a captivating and gravitating aura about him and a sense of humor and accompanying full bodied laughter that seemed to fill the room.   

His passion for art shone through, and as a native Parisian, and frequent world traveler, I couldn't help but hasten to follow every word like I would a lecture from a professor. To be able to ask him unlimited amount of questions in the time we had together, let's say I didn't pass up the chance. 

He took us through the present gallery, which was a curation of avant garde art throughout contemporary time - from Rauschenberg to Warhol to present day. 

Looking at how strange some of the pieces were, like the giant cylindrical metal statue of recycled car parts which reflected a savvy use of material from the industrial revolution which provided a commentary to what an artist was - someone that makes creative use of the tools around them. This was present in Rauschenberg's "painting" of a suitcase, that was a hybrid of sculpture and painting elements at the same time. 

In another gallery room, two giant geometric shapes were juxtaposed - one was an obtuse  triangule with two color fields that were separated by a oblique line, and the other was simply a long rectangular perfectly resined sculpture. The perfectly geometric and uniform color aesthetic mirrored each other and one would think they belonged to the same artist. However, upon Phillpe's explanation that was not the case. The sculpture on the right is a prime example of a  study of how shape compliments color. The artist perfectly planned the shade of the two color fields and the effect there would be when they were  juxtaposed, each shape taking as much surface area as he had considered for the  visual effect to be maximized. The long rectangle sculpture on its left, however, was made by an artist in the middle of the desert who had claimed that by creating this piece, he could communicate with extraterrestrial entities. What's wonderous about this piece was given the limited tools and uncatering emvironment, he was able to perfect this process of resining to the point where it looked industrially crafted. The piece was a perfectly prestine deep blue and not a single bubble or bump appeared on the surface. After hearing the contexts, I understood much more how art can go unappreciated of the history was not unpacked. To non listeners, and only lookers, the magic of the piece cannot be fully unearthed. But to be a listener you have to be patient, and within this mental capacity only art, and many things for that matter, can be fully appreciated. With art, as I have experienced myself, many think just looking at the piece is enough and should suffice, and I agree to that end that art should be enjoyed for the sake of art. But there are so  many ways to create art, and that is what Philippe had been trying to say, that we can go on infinitely making the same art. But to create art that sets a precedent, to create an idea not created before, which I liken to creating a new invention, it makes sense. Because now artists can have a target to strive for, because art is so relative, at least now they can reach for an end goal. We as artists are never satisfied with what we have created, and many go their whole lives striving to make "the perfect painting" like Picasso and many greats before and after him. Being "Avant Garde" is another target to strive for because it may lead to self satisfaction and finally some well deserved recognition for such efforts. In the end, it's another target. 

Hearing Phillipe talk about ground breaking art, he made it clear that they were all well educated and knew exactly where they fit in the context of art history. I couldn't help but ask about outsider art - art created by those with no education about art and the context of their work; they create work usually as a form of self expression. All the educated artists were really trying to create art as if they were outsiders, there was a fine line between outsider art and avant garde art and I wondered why outsider art that was considered so unique, like the story he told of how an artist in the middle of farm country in middle America created a giant sculpture with massive tubes and connected engines that intensely glowed inside a barn. The artist would invite ill people in there believing that the energy and aura given off by his art would heal them. I wondered why this was not seen as avant garde. He replied that outsider art and avant garde art existed in two different dialogue and surely educated artists looked at outsider art for reference and inspiration but they could not be considered in the same field. I was honestly a little disturbed and felt like it seemed unjust - perceiving myself to be an outsider myself not having a proper art history education under the belt. But I understood what he meant - they are two populations that create completely different work. To understand why you are creating and to do so deftly for the public and with groundbreaking resolve is one thing and then to go blindly into it shooting in the dark for your own accord is another. 

I can take back this realization as a call to action of my part. I will be digesting more art and taking every opportunity to explore all art while I'm here on my trip through Europe and continue to keep both eyes.. And ears open. To be a true artist is to be a child of continual education. 

Ann McFerranComment