David Beckham among the feminists
After his 12 minute celebrity debut on the pitch for LA Galaxy (they lost 0-1 to Chelsea), David and Victoria were given a celebrity welcoming party to Tinsel Town, courtesy of Tom Cruise and Will Smith. The venue was the “Geffen Contemporary” -- one time hardware store and warehouse, converted by Frank Gehry into vast display galleries for the LA Museum of Contemporary Art.
The party was last Sunday. What no one seems to have spotted is the delicious inappropriateness of the exhibition that had closed there just a few days earlier.
Entitled WACK!, it was a stunning retrospective of feminist art in the 1960s and 70s.
All the girls were there: Cindy Sherman, ORLAN (who’d actually spent part of this year at the Getty, much to the thrill – as I can attest -- of the middle-aged academics), Nancy Spero, the tremendous Cosey Fanni Tutti (who got the ICA into trouble with her “Prostitution” exhibition in 1976), Mary Kelly, the lot.
I don’t know how long it takes to dismantle a big show like that (though I am sure it’s longer than you think). But could it have been that some of the pieces remained on the wall, while Posh – that stick-insect-cum-clothes-horse whom feminism has so far failed to save – partied away? The thought raises ironies that are almost too good to contemplate.
I went to WACK! just before we left LA and had a great time. True, some of it was showing its age (as if it had spent at least part of the last 40 years in someone’s attic, rather than in museum conservation conditions). And I’ve never much liked those slightly sentimental attempts to “celebrate” women’s sexuality/creativity (usually in the form of flower of some sort), or the attempts to revalue such useless art-forms as crochet or patchwork. Woman artists are almost always much better when they are being witty or angry. So two of my particular favourites here were Spero’s huge drawing “Torture of Women” (as the gallery guide put it “a searing protest against the violence and subjugation of women across history”) and Senga Nengudi’s wonderfully defamiliarised pairs of tights.
But what would I have made sure was left up for the Beckhams? Well obviously those clever commentaries on the subjection (willing or not) of the female body. My dream for Posh would be to have had her watch Martha Rosler’s “Vital Statistics of a Citizen Simply Obtained”, a video installation in which (to quote the guide again) “a woman is elaborately measured by a team of scientists” – a nasty little critique of sado-dispassionate male voyeurism and female narcissism. And for Becks, I’d have chosen Rosler’s series of collages, “Body Beautiful – or Beauty knows no Pain” (above). It just might have made him see his own investment in his partner’s high heels and skeletal female form in a new light.
My guess though is that it had all been speedily taken down. And presumably the artists would have been mightily relieved that they didn’t end up as wallpaper to this particular celebrity bash.
But what a strange sequel to an excellent feminist show. Did anyone in the Geffen, I wonder, spot the irony when they took Messrs Cruise and Smith’s lucrative booking?