Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Report From the Phantom Zone

“It's easy to make contemporary art sound stupid— just describe it literally.” – Bill Arning

Bill Arning is right about most things and in this case, you can apply the same logic to Bill’s job as the curator of the List Visual Arts Center. If you describe the job of a curator literally, it can sound stupid. The primary function of a curator is to oversee the care and exhibition of a collection. It sounds so simple. It sounds so easy. All a curator has to do is display objects that other people have made. How hard could that be? The thing is, describing curating literally is like describing magic literally; it misses the point. To say that all a curator does is oversee the exhibition of a collection is like saying that all a magician has to do is make a dove appear out of thin air. Well, for the past nine years, Bill Arning has been doing magic in Boston, and now he’s off to a great future as the director of Houston’s Contemporary Arts Museum. Just like seeing any other friend get a great job in another city, I don’t want him to leave, but I’m excited for him. Bill established a great track record of curating exhibitions at the List, but Bill did far more than that as well. He brought positive energy to the whole community by being so excited for ideas.

So here’s the thing, there is no way that Houston can really know what a great curator and important member of our community they are getting unless we tell them. I want Houston to know how lucky they are. They should be drooling with anticipation.

The Houston Chronicle has chosen to quote Boston Magazine and again called Bill the “cowboy curator of cutting-edge, contemporary art” in their article this week announcing Bill’s move from Boston to Houston. I’m not sure what a “cowboy curator” is, but I’m glad people are talking about him in Houston already. In fact, the more talk the better. All history begins with gossip, so the more buzz there is about Bill the better for him to be remembered here in Boston and eagerly anticipated in Houston.

So here are some rumors about Bill that will help get people talking and whet Houston’s appetite:

People already know that he played the punk rock band The Student Teachers that opened for Blondie. Everyone knows that he does not have a driver's license. But only a few people will know that he once made a guest appearance on the game show “Art Showdown”.

Some other things to tell Houston would include any humorous anecdotes we have about Bill. For example, I’m a mumbler. I remember walking with Bill through the List Center and mumbling something, but Bill is really tall, like 6’6”, so he didn’t hear me. He said, “What?” So I said it again, but once again he didn’t hear me, so he said politely, “I’m sorry, Steve, I still didn’t catch that.” At this point he must have thought I had something important to say about the exhibition, but really I was just mumbling. So suddenly I was yelling, “I’m kind of hungry!” Everyone turned and looked. Bill looked down at me and said, “Ah … ok.”

Bill is a great guy and he has left a very positive impression on Boston. If you know some interesting facts about Bill or have a humorous anecdote, please leave it in the comment section. In the spirit of all of the positive energy Bill has given our community over the years, I would like this to be a positive tribute to Bill, so please don’t write negative comments.

Just be cool, if you don’t have something nice to say about Bill, please don't say anything at all.

But otherwise, the funnier the better!

The Student Teachers
Photo by Steve Lombardi
Guess which one is Bill ...

Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Where Bill will be the new Director

Solution to the crossword puzzle from two week ago.


Post a Comment

<< Home