But The Paint And Brushes Were Right There….

When I saw this story over the weekend, it seemed like it was absolutely inevitable that an intersection of trends toward authenticity and audience participation in cultural experiences.

In short, graffiti art on display at a gallery in South Korea was defaced by attendees who interpreted the paint cans and brushes set in front of the work as an invitation to contribute.

My first thought was to wonder why the paint and brushes had been left out in front of the work. Apparently, “…the paint and brushes used in the live performance – which are regarded as integral parts of the artwork.”

The live creation of the work was done in 2016 so I am surprised this hadn’t happened earlier. I wondered if the gallery was counting on some social norms in South Korea to prevent people from doing something like this because they didn’t even add a short barrier in front of the work until after the incident. It seems there were “Do Not Touch” signs already, but they added more to the barrier they have erected.

The article indicates the exhibition has traveled since it was first created so other galleries may have included more preventative measures from the outset.

Ultimately, the story made me consider how the dynamics of people’s relationship with art, culture and associated expectations and assumptions may be shifting. It also made me curious about how these assumptions differ from country to country. Are there “Please Touch…” type museums or experiences in South Korea and other countries? Are there countries/places viewed to be innovators in this area we aren’t hearing about? (Always revelatory to listen to the BBC or Deutsche Welle and realizing there is important news you aren’t hearing.)


About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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1 thought on “But The Paint And Brushes Were Right There….”

  1. I will never forget a turning point experience when I was about 17, visiting a contemporary art museum with my then-boyfriend, an artist. I was confused, overwhelmed, and feeling small in the face of all the art I didn’t understand. And then we came to a piece that was a table set with perfectly white objects, with three spray guns full of paint facing them. I was perplexed. My boyfriend burst out laughing. He started talking about the tension, the joke the artist was playing, the potential for deviant destruction that the piece taunted us with and dared us to consider.

    I didn’t know art could be funny like that. I was still a bit cowed, but I smiled. It opened up a new idea for me, the idea that the artist could be in conversation with the audience.

    I doubt this is the case in the story you reference, but any time an artist or an arts organization implicitly dares the audience to participate, I’m always curious whether they are just a little bit pleased when someone takes them up on it.


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