How is Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art doing four years after moving to its new home on the South Boston waterfront? Well, it depends on whom you ask.
Boston magazine editor Rachel Levitt Slade, for example, isn't that impressed. In an article published last month, Slade criticized the ICA for exhibiting a “disappointing string of shallow, blingtastic displays”:
Rather than create shows with the power to lure provocative art-world heavies to our brainy city, the museum has become a kind of Rue La La of contemporary art: It peddles brand names we could find almost anywhere. … And whether we blame the business-minded board; the curators who have gone after attention-grabbing but lightweight shows; or Boston’s inclination to settle for safe art, the result is painfully clear: The ICA has not done nearly enough to push new concepts onto our intellectual map.
On the other hand, Globe art critic Sebastian Smee writes it'd be "crazy to say [the ICA] hasn't been a success." He took his argument to Slade herself in a debate on WBUR's Radio Boston. You can listen to that debate below:
In his blog post and on air, Smee challenges Slade's assertion that the ICA has only delivered lightweight shows, pointing to exhibits of the works of Anish Kapoor, Tara Donovan, Charles LeDray and Mark Bradford as counterexamples. (Don't worry if you haven't heard of these artists, although that may prove Smee's point — if these artists don't have a following in Boston, isn't good that a museum is bringing their works to the city?)
The Globe's editorial board jumped into the fray over the weekend, aruging, like Smee, that Slade's attacks were unjustified:
The museum has struck an impressive balance between featuring up-and-coming artists and mid-career retrospectives. And by earning positive nods from curators and publications around the world, the museum is growing into its role of ambassador for the city’s art scene.
Have you been to the new ICA? What did you think? Leave you thoughts in the comment section and vote in the poll below.
Globe file photo: An exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art last February.