I’m not normally one for audio tours, but this afternoon New York’s Museum of Modern Art posted about a brand new museum tour highlighting 31 wide-ranging works in its collection. The tour, titled MoMA Unadulterated, features sharp and incisive commentary on pieces by Marisol, Joseph Beuys, Alberto Giacometti and more — from children aged 3 through 10.

Made by the aptly named group Audio Tour Hack (not affiliated with MoMA), MoMA Unadulterated is — OK, predictably — hilarious. These kids are no-nonsense: if a piece looks like they could have made it, they’re not impressed.

“Yeah, these are just lines … and dots and blotches of paint of different colors,” says one girl about Jackson Pollock’s “One: Number 31, 1950” (1950). “I don’t think it should be in art museums because anybody can do it.”

The others voice general approval on this point. “I coulda made it,” says a boy. “I could just squiggle, squiggle squaggle, squiggle squaggle, sketch sketch sketch.” Another girl agrees: “I would prefer a different picture that I can’t make.”

The kids then get to discussing the likely price of the Pollock. “Probably like $100,” one offers. “Seriously? It’s messy,” another responds, quite disapprovingly. “I know, but it’s big, and paintings are really, um, expensive.” (Smart kid — although I suppose one’s notions of “expensive” are fairly skewed when one is young.) “You think anyone would buy a big glop of paint for $100?” “I would.”

MoMA should tap that kid now as a future collector.

And that’s just the first track of the tour! Other works that garner pretty low marks are Barnett Newman’s “Vir Heroicus Sublimis” (1950–51) — “I would rate it like 1 star” — and Alexander Calder’s “Gibraltar” (1936) — “If I had made it, I might add more color, and maybe a little bit more shapes. Just make it more … big.” You taking notes, artists? The people want big.

OK, so the kids aren’t crazy about abstraction. They do, however, get behind some pretty forward-thinking work, including Robert Indiana’s “Moon” (1960), which elicits many “ooh”s, and Edward Ruscha’s “OOF” (1962): “I think the guy who made this is going for a really bold expression, and you can actually read the expression on this,” says one burgeoning critic.

In addition to providing sheer hilarity and joy, there are some outstanding moments of insight on the tour. “It’s not about the rings, it’s what you see around the rings,” comments one boy, on Jasper Johns’s “Target with Four Faces” (1955). Another, examining Jean Tinguely’s “Fragment from Homage to New York” (1960), offers the best definition of junk art I’ve ever heard: “Well, I wouldn’t say necessarily junk, but I do think it is made out of a lotta scrap pieces that if they weren’t together they would be considered just junk.”

But my favorite entry is undoubtedly the kids’ critique of Donald Judd’s “Untitled (Stack)” (1967). “That looks like a nine-layered shelf,” says one kid. Why yes, it does! That’s followed by a girl who lets her imagination roam free: “There’s a lot of kitties. They made it really high so a lot of kitties can go. They’re gonna read their text messages and send them.”

We’ve seen the future of art, and it involves text-messaging kitties.

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art and politics but has also been known to write at length about cats. She won the 2014 Best...

3 replies on “These Art Critics Want Their Mommies”

  1. I work with hundreds of young children painting and drawing and have a book coming out this fall on this topic. So, I just want to make a simple comment,

    “Children experience visual arts completely differently than adults do”. If a child gives an art review on art, that’s what you will get. A child’s perspective! Adults need to quit asking children to think like adults… like adult experienced art critics.

    Spramani Elaun,

    Nature of Art For Kids

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