Where the wild things are

They crouch quietly, still, yet they murmur with a palpable energy. Some lie in wait, incased in wooden cocoons, sealed with nails and boards that immobilize but never contain them. Others cling to webbed metal screens, like spiders, but with more presence and a stricter geometry. Those more formless and unique in dimension come cloaked in found materials, sometimes reflecting their own composition, or that of their strange neighbors: blankets, plastic film, foam and wax paper seal them, or hold them, protective like a membrane.

These creatures are a vast collection of wonders, and they sit in this remote hangar (an appropriate term for the holding space of a museum that once wished to acquire a 747) awaiting their moment to be cleaned, restored, transported and shown to the world on a famed and covetable stage. Many may never grace that stage, but perhaps such a fate is no tragedy. What we call storage is itself an entire realm of art, coexisting and interacting in a way unimaginable in the true museum setting. Though each individual piece is carefully packaged and labeled for longevity and practicality, their placement and distribution is a jungle. Order exists, as paintings tend to linger with paintings, sculptures flock together, and chairs perch poised on similar and adjacent shelves, but stragglers abound and the postures are casual, conversational.

Two Rosenquists relax abreast their painterly cousin, Johns. A family of Hirsts claims an intimate corner as their own. A Katz photograph leans against a Lichtenstein, and they recline like lovers. A Rodin huddles in a darkened cove with Picassos and a Matisse, as if conferring on some secretive all-important matter. Uncurated and free from the stories, classifications and formalities of an exhibit, the collection takes on a different character. Released from institutional trappings, this collective of masterpieces becomes a powerful and exotic tribe of barefaced beauty.

Photographs by Betina Bethlem

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