I’m a fan of Walt Disney. I used to work at Disney. Disney has a place in the history of art. But Paul Richards’ four-page curatorial fantasia in the Washington Post yesterday calling for more Walt Disney in Our Nation’s Museums is the height of obtuseness. Unfortunately, it’s all too of a piece with the facile counter-intuitive stuntwriting that passes for the Post’s coverage of cultural topics. [cf. Blake Gopnik’s review of the National Gallery’s gelato collection; watching Metro riders ignore violinist Josh Bell, insultingly uninformed reviews of fashion and John Cage concerts, &c., &c.]
Richards gives six reasons–unpersuasive, sure, but also so off-the-wall they’re unanswerable–that Disney “deserves more than the video store. He should be in the museums”:
Interestingly, he doesn’t mention what I suspect is the real reason he wants to curate Disney. Here’s the self-aggrandizing kicker of Richards’ 2005 reminiscence of Walter Hopps, the legendary curator and museum director who was as famous in art world circles for his erratic, irreverent behavior as for his prescient, influential exhibitions:
Hours, sometimes days, would pass before one heard his low, rich voice, often on the telephone in the middle of the night. It was always worth the wait. He was the best art talker I have ever heard. His speech was like a Jackson Pollock drip painting, swooping, swelling, doubling back. He mesmerized. He taught.
One night, I remember, at the headachy end of a noisy artists’ party, I asked him to conceive a show on the spot. “Okay,” he said. “We’ll call it ‘Seven Enormously Popular American Painters.’ Five supporting actors, and two stars. For the five, Walt Disney, N.C. Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Rockwell Kent and Saul Steinberg. And for the two competing stars, Audubon and Warhol.”
The death of Walter Hopps makes the modern-art museum world feel somehow pale and tame.
Luckily for Hopps, he died without having to watch a fanboi/critic try to turn some offhand party chatter about the worst show ever into a mouse-eared museum manifesto.