David Ebony, 'David
Adamo, Museum Museum: XX, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art',
Art in America, March 2008.
Can an artwork exist without an audience? When we gaze at an art object
do we participate in a sort of ritual act that makes each of us an essential
collaborator in the artistic process? Is art viewing itself a performance,
a unique artistic endeavor that varies with each individual? These are
the kinds of questions posed by David Adamo's wry action Museum
Museum: XX at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The day-long performance,
if you will call it that, consisted of the artist dressed in a black
sports jacket and grey pants, casually standing in front of and intently
looking at John Singer Sargent's iconic painting, Madame X (Madame
Gautreau), 1883-84, hung near a second-floor stairwell in the Met's
American Wing. According to a press statement, the Performa project
was organized by curators Howie Chen and Gabrielle Giattino of Dispatch
Bureau, although one wonders what curatorial effort was involved in
this simple and static affair. In fact, there was something so unassuming
about Adamo's presentation that I walked right by him a number of times
before I realized he was "performing".
I observed him for a while as he pondered the mysterious Madame X; he
stood unflinchingly while a large group tour group listened to a docent's
long-winded discourse on the painting in Portuguese. Thomas Struth's
photos of museum-goers came to mind as I found myself frozen in space,
an inadvertent co-star of Adamo's show. At one point, I ventured to
disrupt his trance with a few questions, and he seemed to welcome the
break. He referred to the event as his private marathon dedicated to
one of his favorite paintings; in no way was it a masochistic exercize.
"How does your mental and physical state change in the course of
the day, and how does it affect your perception of the painting?"
I asked. He offered that after some hours of staring at the canvas,
he started to hallucinate, but he could not give further details before
other Madame X admirers stopped by for a prolonged visit, and we all