Speaking of museum exhibitions drawn from performing arts archives, in a post that appeared yesterday on the Guardian’s Theatre Blog, Chris Wilkinson asks the question: “Is there any point in exhibitions about theatre?” His response raises another question — is he assuming the pose of a professional provocateur or is he really that vapid? Readers can decide for themselves.
Along the way, however, he does usefully draw attention to a recent post by David Jay for artsjournal, in which Jay reviews the new performance galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Wilkinson also reacts to two quite positive blog posts about the recently closed exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York, Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater, 1919-1949 (which someone had promised to blog about here) as if they were further proof of the pointlessness of such displays.
Perhaps if he had seen this exhibition or even glanced at the excellent web version, Wilkinson might have felt differently. I was fortunate to see the show while on a recent visit to New York. I popped in just expecting to see some lovely Chagall works, but spent several hours in the very crowded galleries, ultimately coming away with a greater appreciation for aspects of political and social history of which I had been sadly unaware. Particularly moving among those items on display were the charred remains of surviving documents from the GOSET company’s archives. The repository that housed these records, the Bakhrushin State Central Theater Museum, had been the victim of a suspicious fire in 1953; a few years previously, its leading actor, Solomon Mikhoels, had been murdered under the orders of the Stalin regime.
Perhaps we will have a more complete review of this engrossing exhibition in the future. It opens in San Francisco on April 23, 2009 at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Do go by all means if you have the chance!