The ICA: Exhibitionists?
AND YET, I BELIEVE the ICA still has the power to be at the vanguard, if only it would take itself seriously. And there are signs it will. Hopes abound for Helen Molesworth, the new chief curator who arrived last year by way of the esteemed Wexner Center for the Arts and Harvard Art Museum — and not the least of that hope comes from Medvedow herself. Molesworth, Medvedow told the Globe, “is known for ambitious shows where she tries to put her arm around art that’s new but to also better help us understand where that art came from. Those shows are harder to do, they’re a bigger risk, and they cost more. But when they work, they are exhibitions that become part of the history of art.” Remarks like that suggest Medvedow knows the museum’s past five years weren’t game-changing in the way they could have been. That’s a start.
And those in a position to know say that Molesworth has the vigor to think on her own. Unlike her predecessors, she’s got a serious body of scholarly inquiry to suggest that she’s the real deal. If so, her energy may well give the museum the confidence to look outside itself, to empower the city’s hopeful artists, and to celebrate the ideas that kick us in the gut and make us ponder. Successful movements don’t happen in isolation, after all, or by playing safe. That pretty, lonely box on the waterfront could actually find itself with allies even more powerful than the local moneyed class that built it. And the real payoff will be in the kind of vibrant, contentious, noisy, and invigorated art scene our city deserves.