living – or getting dissed by an art museum

Posted by on Sep 7, 2011 in burning man | No Comments

Speaking of Burning Man, I was  surprised to find that one of my pictures was picked to be the cover image for a major exhibition in one of the world’s top art museums, the Louisiana MOMA in Denmark. Shame they didn’t ask permission for it to be used as the cover of the catalog, let me know it was chosen or even invite me to the opening.

books on display

In early 2011 the museum contacted me to say they were doing an architecture exhibition with a small subsection related to Burning Man and were considering using some of my images. One they liked was a shot I took in center camp in the middle of a dust storm, pictured below.

bm09-089-living

The exhibition opened in June, but there was no mention of me or my pictures on the exhibition website, so I assumed none made the cut, or at most had been included in some minor sideshow alongside hundreds of others. Hardly surprising, it was an architecture exhibition after all.

But when I was getting ready to photograph the Trojan Horse burn on the playa, serendipity struck as it so reliably does at Burning Man. I met a dutch photographer and the first thing she told me was how excited she was to have some of her pictures chosen to be in an exhibition at one of the world’s top art museums. It was such a big deal, the dutch ambassador flew her in to be at the opening reception.

I told her I’d also been contacted by them, she asked which pictures I’d submitted. When I mentioned the center camp one, her eyes widened. “That’s the keynote image of the exhibition!” Apparently it appeared as a wall-sized print, the wrap-around cover of the exhibition catalog and the first double-page spread in that catalog.

hallway

Problem is, the museum didn’t consider it worthwhile to let me know if any of my images had been chosen, mention me on their website, ask permission to use my image as the catalog cover, invite me to the opening (I was in London at the time and could easily have gone to it) or even send me a catalog. They sold tens of thousands of them at $40 a pop, I later found.

I’m most disappointed with their denying me the chance to be at the opening reception – I’ll never know what contacts and opportunities I would have made there. When  I contacted them, the best they could do was reluctantly send just five copies of the catalog and belatedly add a photo credit to the exhibition web page. They even refused to send me the print.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m honored that my image was chosen to feature the biggest exhibition of the year in one of the world’s top art museums. I’m just shocked at their shoddy behavior and lack of respect for artists. Since then I’ve heard of plenty of other artists who have been screwed over by this museum, so I guess I’m not that special.

Click here below to read more about the exhibition and catalog.