Sept 17: Embarrassment of Riches
In 2007 curator David E. Little was flipping through a magazine when he saw a Louis Vuitton ad featuring Mikhail Gorbachev in the back of a limo. On the seat beside him was one of capitalist society’s most recognizable status symbols: a logo-covered LV bag. Visible out the window were the remains of the Berlin Wall. “I thought, What is going on here?” remembers Little. “In the Eighties who could have ever imagined this?” What was going on, of course, was the unprecedented accumulation of wealth that defined the first years of the 21st century. Spurred on by the idea of Gorbachev as luxury spokesmodel, Little set out to explore that topic through photography and video art. The works included in the resulting show, “Embarrassment of Riches,” at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (September 17 to January 2), range from glamour shots—like a selection from Jacqueline Hassink’s series of haute couture fitting rooms and Martin Parr’s deadpan depiction of spectators at a Dubai polo match—to wistful vistas of Canadian oil fields and Chinese building sites. One of the most provocative is Luc Delahaye’s A Lunch at the Belvedere (2004), a photograph of a World Economic Forum meeting digitally manipulated to resemble The Last Supper. Delahaye transformed a round table into a long one, placing billionaire financier George Soros at its center. “We now live in a world where debates about ideology have been replaced by debates about currency,” says Little. Little planned “Embarrassment of Riches” before the financial meltdown; once it hit, he says, he worried that the show “would be dead.” But rather than render the works irrelevant, the current situation lends emotional weight. Looking at pieces like Andreas Gursky’s Cocoon (2007), which features a throbbing crowd of carefree revelers at a ridiculously over-the-top nightclub in Frankfurt, one can’t help but think of Rome before the fall.