Huge Controversy Brewing at the Corcoran

It has been ignored so far by the Washington Post, and it was picked up today by the Washington City Paper, but there’s a huge controversy going on right now involving the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the firing of a guest curator.

However, the story has been discussed extensively by several DC-based art BLOGs. Here’s the issue:

Several weeks ago, the Washington Project for the Arts/Corcoran, which is a terrific arts organization that gathers together many DC area artists and does exhibitions around town, etc. announced that it had selected Philip Barlow, a local arts collector as a curator for an exhibition called OPTIONS 2005, which is sort of a WPA/C Biennial aimed at selecting and showcasing works by emerging DC area artists.

Apparently Barlow made it clear to the WPA/C that he intended to exclude from this show all artists who had participated in the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities widely publicized Pandamania and Party Animals projects.

Barlow started visiting art studios and galleries and gathering the show together. On September 23, The Washington Post published a small interview in which Barlow made his curatorial thoughts publicly known outside of the WPA/C circles.

On October 13 DC Art News broke the story that Barlow had been fired as a result of his decision being published in the Post to exclude Pandamania and Party Animals artists from OPTIONS 2005.

My thoughts on this subject: I disagree 100% with Philip Barlow’s decision to exclude all artists who participated in these two projects from being considered for Options 2005; however, I respect and defend his right, as the curator, to make that decision. He has that right and it was wrong of the Corcoran to fire him from the job.

Barlow’s logic in excluding all Pandamania and Party Animals artists from Options 2005 is as flawed as the logic that says that all Art-O-Matic artists are bad, amateur artists. Barlow has worked very hard in the past to support and defend Art-O-Matic (which by the way, gets a large amount of financial support from the DC Arts Commission), and it is surprising that he doesn’t see the logical relationship between what he was doing to Pandamania and Party Animals artists and what most art critics in this town did to Art-O-Matic’s artists.

Having said that, I back Barlow’s right to make whatever decision he chooses to make as a curator. It is his goddamned right to exclude whoever and whatever he so chooses, just as it is my and your right to disagree with his decision – but he owns the right to make it!

Barlow made an eloquent defense of his position in this email published in DC Art News.

On October 19, the WPA/C sent out a news release explaining their position, somewhat back-tracking on who knew what when.

James W. Bailey, who is a very talented area photographer became very passionate about the whole issue and wrote to David Levy, Director of the Corcoran. Their correspondence adds more light on the subject and can be read here.

Until the Washington City Paper story today, it has been the BLOGsphere, specifically Thinking About Art, and also Grammar.police and lately Modern Art Notes who have pushed this issue to the front.

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