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Issue Date: March 2007

Museums Unframed - Museum of Bad Art

Museums don’t have to meanlong, silent hallways with a bunch of old stuff framed on the walls. In parks, galleries and halls of fame from Vegas to D.C., there are tons of cool things for your ogling pleasure.
What does your family want to discover this weekend?

Jason Feifer
Every museum has standards. But when you’re the Museum of Bad Art, those standards mostly involve distinguishing between different shades of terrible. There’s the incompetent terrible, but that’s worth-less. There’s the intentionally terrible, which misses the point entirely. And then there’s the genuinely terrible — the art of unmet potential, made with sincerity and determination, charming in the way it went horribly awry. This is the best of the bad.
“It needs to communicate something,” says Louise Sacco, who, in the museum’s tradition of mockery, holds the title of permanent acting interim executive director. “In the bad art, it sometimes communi-cates something like, ‘What the hell?’ ”
It may be natural to ponder Mona Lisa, but there’s also an aching mystery to MOBA’s “Keys to the City,” a simplistic suburban landscape covered in glued-on keys. What does it mean? And when it was done, did the artist give up and find another hobby? There is an allure to absolute failure — a reassurance that nobody’s perfect — and the museum does well to celebrate it.

And count the museum itself among the underwhelming: It’s housed en route to a movie theater bath-room. There’s a fake security camera, and display cards full of humorless art-speak accompany each piece. (“The flesh tones bring to mind the top-shelf liqueurs of a border bistro,” deadpans the card for “Mama and Babe,” an eerie painting of a blue-faced mother and her purple child.) 

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