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There's Another Side to Cancellation of 'Hidden'

August 31, 1996

Regarding your reports on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's cancellation of the exhibition "Hidden in Plain Sight: Illusion in Art From Jasper Johns to Virtual Reality" (Morning Report, June 8; "LACMA Faces Uneasy Art of Balancing Its Budget With Curatorial Plans," July 17):

LACMA President Andrea Rich blamed the cancellation on inadequate funding and "a lack of shared perspective" between the show's co-curators, Maurice Tuchman and myself.

As recently as May 14, to my knowledge, all funding for the exhibition was in place. What went so wrong, so quickly? I cannot say with certainty, since no one at the museum ever discussed this funding problem with me, despite the fact that my contract stipulates that I should be included in any discussion of reorganizing or canceling the exhibition. As for the "lack of shared perspective" between my co-curator and myself, the museum's June 10 letter notifying me of the cancellation cites inadequate funding as the sole cause. Never, during the two years preparing for the show, did anyone at the museum speak to me about "a lack of shared perspective."

Presumably, Rich refers to the fact that on May 30 I gave the museum 30 days notice of my intent to resign. This was the result of the museum's failure, in my view, to address concerns regarding an inappropriate workload and unprofessional work environment that I had brought to museum administration three weeks earlier. The phrase, "lack of shared perspective," and Rich's more recent reference to "differences of opinion about control," decidedly understate and at the same time obfuscate these issues, and their alleged relation to the museum's decision to cancel the exhibition.

The museum's statements about the cancellation imply that I am involved in the demise of a project that I am largely responsible for conceptualizing and developing. Contrary to Rich's suggestion, the museum made no effort "to really work together to pull [the exhibition] off." Not with me, at any rate.

Additionally, Rich's reference to the "honorary" status of my official title of co-curator would be laughable, if it did not indicate a fundamental disrespect for the work.

I am naturally disappointed that the extraordinary efforts and the exceptional resources that would have resulted in this exhibition and its accompanying catalog have apparently been wasted. I am also deeply concerned that LACMA has abused the goodwill of many artists (a number of whom have created works especially for the exhibition), authors (all of whom wrote new essays for the catalog) and arts supporters (including several that represent new, nontraditional, and collaborative sources of support).

Rich has said that the cancellation of "Hidden in Plan Sight" reflects "a massive reorganization of the museum's programs and resources." I am waiting to see what comes of this.


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