Friday, September 21, 2007

Before the First Look

In August and September the main problem with the new Infinite Island exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum was finding out about it.

The Caribbean art community in New York City and elsewhere has been buzzing about Infinite Island since the museum curators starting visiting artists’ studios. Of course, we had to wait to see the show to find out what the exhibit as a whole would look like. Then somebody heard about The Opening to take place August 30th. The date made sense; it was just before Labor Day and the huge West Indian Day Parade that passes in front of the BM. But then, a few weeks before the date, someone said the opening was cancelled. Someone else said it was postponed. Googling “opening Brooklyn Museum Infinite Island” led me to an official blog on the BM website ( The blogger, who was involved in installing the work, excitedly wrote that the opening was on, and that she was looking forward to “seeing you there.”

I promptly emailed this information to a half a dozen people. But something told me to double-check. I decided to go to the people who should know for sure, and I called the museum. But the people answering the general number said they didn’t know when the exhibit was opening. I was transferred to the voice mail of an assistant curator, who called me back to say that the show was opening “at 10 am on Friday” August 31st. Ok…so then I forwarded that information to a half a dozen people. No opening? everyone asked each other – and no events for Labor Day weekend???

In fact, not only was there no reception or fanfare for the first days of the exhibit, but there were also no First Saturday events. First Saturdays – officially known as Target First Saturdays – regularly attract hundreds of people to the BM on the first Saturday of every month for free events such as exhibit tours, film screenings, performances, and children’s events. It’s a great program – and as Brooklyners have lamented for the last several years, is increasingly crowded by Manhattanites who have discovered the Museum. No matter, we can share.

Anyway, there was no First Saturday for September 2007. The August First Saturday was and the October one will be focused on Caribbean culture, so let’s hope that in September museum staff just wanted to take a vacation. Still, it seems a huge shame that they shut down one of their most popular programs exactly when they were opening an exhibit on Caribbean art, and when they could have benefitted the most from citywide interest in Caribbean culture. Regardless of its reasoning, the museum’s decision is particularly ironic since the Infinite Island catalog is dedicated to Carlos Lezama, who died this year, and who is widely credited with starting the West Indian Day Parade.

But back to the saga of the opening/s. A few weeks later (in early September) I got a call from an out-of-town curator saying that the “VIP opening” was happening that night. It was for the “muckety-mucks,” she said, and they would be very strict about the invitations. No crashers of any kind, whether Caribbean critics, Brooklyn artists, or bloggers. Even some of the artists living outside of New York weren’t sent invitiations – though some surely would have come to network.

I DID, however, get a ticket from one of the artists in the show for the “general” opening. Why all of this confusion? Why delayed openings? It’s almost as though the BM doesn’t want people to come and see the show! But I couldn’t wait for a party to go to the exhibit…

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