Monday, June 13, 2011


On Sunday, the Milwaukee Art Museum opened to the public The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City, the first in a five-part series of exhibitions dedicated to  Chinese art. It is the first exhibition to appear in a major American museum in direct cooperation with the Chinese government since the arrest of Ai Weiwei in April.

The Journal Sentinel's art blogger Mary Louise Schumacher has chimed in, but not editorialized. A lukewarm piece run by the local news (WISN Milwaukee) has several shots of the protestors back to show them barely forming a crowd. In two minutes, they still had time to show Milwaukee-based artist Mike Brenner shaving his head in an act of solidarity with Weiwei. Though the police were alerted and Brenner was escorted from the premises, Dan Keegan, the MAM's director, later said attributed this to a lapse in administrative communication, going so far as to call Brenner "cool" to have expressed himself in this way. 

I've thought of moving to Wisconsin many times. It is, first of all, a beautiful place, and visits to Milwaukee or Devil's Lake have been full of encounters with friendly, soft-spoken, unassuming people. Yet it seems the people of Wisconsin are just as capable of making noise as not. The righteous zeal of the Madison protests last spring over collective bargaining rights stands in definite contrast to the local reaction has been to what the rest of the art world (and main stream media) have insisted is a big deal.

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