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Resetting 'The Clock'

Posted by Mark Feeney  October 5, 2011 03:24 PM

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The Museum of Fine Arts has announced that it will be extending the run of Christian Marclay's "The Clock" to Dec. 31. This is excellent news. It also means I don't feel so bad about the Loring Gallery, where it's running, being full earlier this afternoon so I wasn't able to get in for another viewing. "The Clock" had been scheduled to close next Tuesday.

The extended run applies only to regular museum hours. The sole scheduled opportunity remaining to see "The Clock" in its 24-hour entirety will be this Sunday and Monday, when the MFA will stay open overnight, as part of its Fall Open House.

The practical reasons for not showing "The Clock" around the clock are obvious: security considerations, for one, the cost of staff overtime, for another. Still, the museum knew what it was getting when it bought Marclay's piece earlier this year. It's frustrating to prospective viewers, who are effectively restricted to seeing less than half of the work. It's insulting to the work itself that, with only two exceptions, it should be shown in such a truncated form.

Consider two of the most important paintings in the MFA's permanent collection. Would the museum exhibit Rogier van der Weyden's "St. Luke Drawing the Virgin" with the Christ Child concealed or J.M.W. Turner's "The Slave Ship" without the waves? The question is so ridiculous it answers itself. Then how justify doing something comparable to "The Clock"?

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