Magazine article Artforum International

Late Mass

Magazine article Artforum International

Late Mass

Article excerpt

As its official opening date approaches, it is difficult to know what to say about the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Conceived in 1986 as the world's largest space for the exhibition of large-scale contemporary works, the project languished for thirteen years as funds evaporated, organizers and contributors defected, and public attention turned to flamboyant, jewel-like art palaces in places like Los Angeles and Bilbao. Forced to redefine itself repeatedly in order to raise funds, Mass MOCA now locates its mission at the blurry intersection of new technology, performance, and cross-disciplinary experimentation.

When the museum opens its doors on May 30, a wide variety of work will be on view, with an emphasis on large-scale installations. Important pieces by Joseph Beuys, Mario Merz, and Robert Rauschenberg are part of a group show; Tony Oursler contributes a work specially commissioned for this opening; an animation series presents images from Disney as well as from William Kentridge. A permanent sound installation by Christina Kubisch is already in place, and off-site, the museum has organized an exhibition of artists' billboards [see preview, p. 59]. "We have won hearts and minds, and sometimes that takes a little while," said Joseph C. Thompson, the museum's director, referring to the decade-long struggle for financing. The new institution, however, has yet to prove that it can win the support of a broad public willing to travel for hours, and pay eight dollars, to be challenged by contemporary art.

The museum occupies a group of abandoned nineteenth-century factory buildings in North Adams, in the Berkshire Hills of northwestern Massachusetts. It is hours away from New York or Boston. The oldest buildings date from 1872, when the Arnold Print Works opened a plant at the center of town. …

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