By Franklin Vagnone, Museum Maverick for the Hudson Valley Session
In the conversation, it became clear that, in curating, we had marginalized and excluded a lot of possibilities. My question was, “Where is the GRIT in this pile of things?” There didn’t seem to be any FOIL to the highly selective curation that we had just completed. In some ways, this exercise held meaning to the location that we were holding this incubator. Boscobel is an extraordinarily beautiful, although extensively reconstructed & moved, historic house. The contents are some of the finest Federal-style furniture and artifacts anywhere and rivals the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The wonderful curator Jennifer Carlquist explained that Boscobel shouldn’t be viewed as a house museum, but rather a Decorative Arts Center. The meaning and function of the spaces are galleries to present the artifacts and the story of the family isn’t the core mission of the organization. The house’s environment holds a beautiful, yet constantly grand, shiny, fancy, sameness. I wondered, “Where is the GRIT?” This was our task for the day. How to produce grit in an environment that seemed to go out of its way to be consistently fabulously Federal. In the end, I feel like we had approached this idea through our five conjectural experimentations using Boscobel collection items. In fact, I was quite amazed at the ability of our various teams to pull it all together into a cohesive narrative and program. I think events like these are extremely important so that we all can come together and share our ideas, concerns and perspectives on moving forward.
My biggest concern for Boscobel and its contents is that they remain in a world of seclusion. Like a beautiful prince or princess, locked away in a far-off castle. One wonders how best to use this beauty? Is the beauty a hindrance to engagement? Even I was stunned and blinded by the sparkle and sensuousness of the gilded pieces, the stiff clarity of the cabinet pieces, and the blinding reflections of the mirrors. Can such beauty be a foil for the world, where mostly we are all confronted with pain, sadness, and confusion with the world around us? What are the stories that can provide meaning and context to our lives today, while still standing at a pinnacle of curated specificity?
Boscobel was the perfect place to discuss these ideas….