Click, click. Snap. Cha-cha-ching. Everywhere around me cameras clattered away.
“Honey, I’m telling you, there’s a whole lot more to see,” a father told a young girl who faced a car painted bright colors and decked out with knick-nacks by artist Kenny Scharf. He waited as she slowly, deliberately, hit the shutter. “I don’t know how many pictures you’re capable of.”
The hundreds of others in attendance would have done well to hear that advice too.
Of course, the need to personally record every moment was understandable given the momentous occasion: opening night of MOCA’s groundbreaking exhibit, “Art in the Streets.”
According to museum director Jeffrey Dietch, we were experiencing “the first exhibition to position the work of the most influential artists to emerge from street culture in the context of contemporary art history.” The exhibit intends to elevate the status of street art – viewed by many as crude, grungy and illegal – to museum-worthy. The move has made many consider the implications of viewing street art outside of its natural habitat, at an elite space that demands you pay to get in. Some have taken the stance that street art has no artistic value and should be left where it started.
“Art in the Streets” proves that art born on the sidewalk or in an alley can grow up to dwell in the museum. At least, a museum like MOCA. The contemporary art venue’s presentation of works by more than 50 artists expertly guides the viewer through decades of history, varieties of styles and a multitude of interactive experiences. I especially appreciated the ability to compare and contrast a range of works including photographs of tagged-subway cars, robot-like gadgets, spray-paint murals, and lace-like paper cutouts.
I found the enthusiasm of my fellow art-goers just as thrilling as the art itself. They were filled with palpable excitement as they clicked cameras, chattered vivaciousy and nearly pranced from site to site.
The exhibit’s co-curator Aaron Rose has commented that the exhibit is expected to draw a large, diverse swath of attendees, including Latinos, blacks and teenagers – not necessarily the usual art museum demographic. No matter what critics say about the art itself or its role in a museum, one thing is definite: the possibility of “Art in the Streets” to connect with a diversity of people is an awesome thing.