Be honest: Sometimes, conceptual art can be a little bit funny. Showing a pillow in a museum that has only been slept on by acrobats? That’s funny.
At least, Hollywood actor Will Ferrell and Community star Joel McHale certainly think so. The pair recently took a mock private tour of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles with Aram Moshayedi, the curator of its rather cerebral show, “Stories of Almost Everyone,” which opened in January.
The exhibition features more than 60 works by 30 leading artists, including Danh Vo, Carol Bove, and Jill Magid, and Ceal Floyer. (That aforementioned pillow, titled The Acrobats Are Sleeping, is by Jason Dodge.)
The show plays on the new meanings that everyday objects take on when narrative descriptions, such as wall texts or curator-led tours, re-interpret them for the viewer. Apart from a Tino Sehgal performance (a “reverse striptease” by a gallery “guard”), the show left the LA Times‘s art critic cold. Christopher Knight called it “pedantic.”
On their tour, the actors take on amateur personas, joking about “cracking open” a John McCracken facsimile by Darren Bader and poking fun at some of the complex installation processes the works required. “Some of the pieces seem to be randomly placed,” cracks Ferrell.
The actor, who is married to a former auctioneer and current Hammer board member, Viveca Paulin-Ferrell, actually collects contemporary art. But in the video, he appears somewhat unconvinced: “We discussed it, and I thought, ‘OK, all right… I’m warming up to it. But ultimately: No.”
For his part, McHale deems Martin Creed’s Work No. 569 (2006), an automated baby grand piano whose top opens and then quickly shuts without warning, “the coolest thing I have ever seen”—before touching it and upsetting its settings.
McHale concludes: “I know a lot of people are like, ‘I don’t know if this is art.’ It’s definitely art, I would say. Staring at them for a long time with other people kind of makes it art.”
Not a bad definition, if you ask us.
“Stories of Almost Everyone” is on view at the Hammer Museum 10899 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, January 28–May 6, 2018.
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