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Exclusive: Büchel's Statement, Part 2

Posted by Geoff Edgers  May 25, 2007 10:56 AM

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The second part of the seven-page statement I received back in March from artist Christoph Büchel outlining his complaints over Mass MoCA's handling of his planned exhibition.

Here's the first part.


Last August Christoph Büchel arrived in North Adams for a site visit and immediately set out to work on building a scale model of the gallery in order to finalize the plan he proposed months earlier. Christoph had presented the curator, Nato Thompson and the museum director Joe Thompson a cohesive proposal for his solo exhibition slated to open in Building 5 at Mass MoCA in mid-December.

Everyone was incredibly enthusiastic about “Training Camp for Democracy” and it was agreed that it was a massive installation requiring a significant amount of energy in research, compiling of elements and a labor-intensive build-out. The museum agreed to the proposal and the artist began to map out the installation months before. He left North Adams having given the museum a thorough checklist with all the key items they will need to organize and purchase and a clear plan of action. The scope and scale of the installation was clearly defined. Several lists and instructions were given to the museum in advance so they could be prepared for CB’S visit later that fall

The first and most important demand was that Christoph would not move forward without 3 assistants from Switzerland – who were crucial to the realization of CB’s installation. These are his assistants who had worked on several of his other labor intensive installations and have the most technical and logistical knowledge of the work – as well as able to understand and execute CB’s vision. Originally the museum offered a meager salary to the assistants (1000$ dollars for one assistant for seven weeks of work, the two others were not to be paid). When the museum finally agreed to pay their proper salaries, they only ended up requesting that the NY gallery front the money. The artist was never notified of this and was only made aware of this when a “confidential budget” was finally released in early January to his European gallerist, after the show was postponed.

The museum had no intention of paying the salaries of these assistants – who ended up working 45 days straight – at least 10 hours a day.

Secondly, in order to realize an exhibition the scale and scope of “Training Camp for Democracy”, a serious schedule had to be prepared and adhered to. This is where Mass MoCA failed in everyway. The deinstallation of the Carsten Holler show was delayed by three weeks. Seriously pushing back the start date of CB’s construction. The museum failed to have several key elements ready by the time the artist arrived ready to work. The museum delayed the purchase of key items that CB had approved and selected – thereby losing some of these elements.

The schedule was plagued by the delay of the deinstallation of the Holler show, which caused a chain reaction of delays. The museum decided to add a large gate that would be installed in Building 5 to facilitate the movement of works into the space. It was agreed that this was a cost absorbed by the museum as it is something they would use in the future due to the ambitious nature of the artworks installed in Building 5, but later the cost for the gate ($45,000) was listed in the “confidential budget” – adding its cost to the overall production of CB’s installation. The gate’s installation was extremely delayed – preventing the large-scale elements to be moved in a timely fashion. And then there were the holiday delays. Thanksgiving interrupted the workflow significantly. At this point Christoph alerted the museum and began discussing postponing the exhibition. The museum proved time and time again, that they could not finish in time, yet they were pressing ahead with the original opening date of December 16.

The cinema, that the museum technicians were building – took longer then expected to construct and dismantle from its original site to be moved and reinstalled into Büchel’s exhibition– as the museum ignored the artists instructions which would have saved time and money. Before the proposed opening date (Dec 16) the cinema was nowhere complete in its reinstallation. And even today the cinema component of the installation is not finished – three months after the original opening date. Additionally there are several key structural elements that have not even been organized.


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About Exhibitionist Geoff Edgers covers arts news for The Boston Globe..

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