Photo Essays

Dump Your Bad Art at the Museum

Throw away your precious art at Bob and Roberta Smith's 'Art Amnesty' at MoMA PS1 (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)
Throw away your precious art at Bob and Roberta Smith’s ‘Art Amnesty’ at MoMA PS1 (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic)

Artist Patrick Brill, better known as Bob and Roberta Smith, has taken over a wing of MoMA PS1’s second floor; however, his own art only makes up a fraction of the show. Art Amnesty, an expanded reprisal of a 2002 show at Pierogi Gallery, invites any and everyone to submit their own artwork, provided they abide by the Smiths’ guidelines: all art is either to be destroyed after display or immediately discarded in dumpsters in the museum’s courtyard.

A piece constructed from aluminum to-go containers  (click to enlarge)
A piece constructed from aluminum to-go containers (click to enlarge)

The show has accumulated a diverse body of artwork since opening in October, ranging from ramshackle to refined. Many pieces are handwritten or assembled from homemade objects, suggesting that people may not be giving away their most prized creations.

The Smiths’ own signature, text-based paintings sit among the submitted work. They contain messages referring to notable people and moments in art history, with the purpose of demystifying the production of art. Some praise public art (“WPA gave the USA hope”), others poke fun at vaunted artists (“Michelangelo has lice”), and still others simply remind the audience that art objects are still just objects (“Everything is made”).

Artists submit one of two pledges along with their pieces: “I NEVER WANT TO SEE THIS WORK OF ART AGAIN” or “I PROMISE NEVER TO MAKE ART AGAIN.” Those who elect to retire from art making receive an “I AM NO LONGER AN ARTIST” badge designed by Bob and Roberta. At the show’s opening party last October, when parents were invited to bring their children to create and display art, a third pledge became available: “I WILL ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO BE ALL THAT THEY CAN BE. CHOOSE ART AT SCHOOL.” While the show doesn’t seem to have inspired many professional artists to retire, it is hopefully encouraging the creation of a community of first-time ones.

Artist pledge cards at the exhibition's front desk
Artist pledge cards at the exhibition’s front desk
'Art Amnesty' has been flooded with submissions.
‘Art Amnesty’ has been flooded with submissions.
 "Art makes people powerful" "Bless U"
“Art makes people powerful” “Bless U”
Toy soldiers are strewn about the exhibition, highlighting the sense of play.
Toy soldiers are strewn about the exhibition, highlighting the sense of play.
A crumpled-up blanket wrapped in tape.
A crumpled-up blanket wrapped in tape
A collection of art objects.
A collection of art objects
Art and garbage together at last
Art and garbage together at last

Bob and Roberta Smith: Art Amnesty continues at MoMA PS1 (22-25 Jackson Ave, Long Island City, Queens) through March 23.

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