The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guards are Artists of SW!PE Exhibition
Who is standing guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? You know, the men and women who keep watch over the galleries all day and some evenings, urging museum visitors to: “Please step back from the Pollock” and “Please do not touch!” and “No touching, PLEASE!”
Would you be surprised to learn that a number of The Met’s Finest are trained artists themselves? While the artist as security guard may appear oxymoronic to some, who would be as well suited to oversee the safety of approximately 200,000 works of art the Metropolitan Museum has on exhibition each day.
This “creative workforce” from the Met has launched an art and literary journal entitled: SW!PE Magazine, which is dedicated to showcasing the hidden-from-the-surface talent of the museum guards and workers. The title refers to the act of “swiping” in and out of work each day. An exhibition organized and curated by the group in conjunction with the magazine release was so popular it is being re-opened at 25CPW Gallery. The show features the work of thirty-five artists working in a broad range of media, subject matter, and style — described in the SW!PE show press release as ranging “from the classical to the controversial.” The artists’ biographies, available on the SW!PE Magazine web site, offer a glimpse of what this both diverse and “creative force” has to offer.
“Many art school grads are drawn to cultural instructions like the Metropolitan Museum, in search of day jobs,” relates now ex-museum guard Jason Eskenazi and editor of SW!PE. “As we got to know one another, we saw how much we had in common.”
Jason, a photographer and Guggenheim Fellow, was one of the organizers of the exhibition. He worked at the Met for two years. While walking the galleries of one of the most prestigious museums in the world, surrounded by famous masterpieces of art can be a very inspiring, the job did have its drawbacks: “It is against museum policy for guards to engage in conversation with museum visitors, but mostly people wanted to know one thing: Which way to the bathroom?” With over four million visitors a year, that could get to be a bit much.
Protecting 5000 years of art exhibited over 2,000,000 square feet of floor space is no cakewalk! “It became too stressful, keeping people away from the artwork, Eskenazi tells me, “It was constant stress.” He left his museum job because it kept him from his photography work. Hey, if you were responsible for protecting a painting like Duccio’s Madonna and Child, which was purchased for 45 million dollars, you would be stressed out too!
SW!PE Show Re-opening: Saturday March 20, 2010 at
25CPW Gallery, 25 Central Park West (at 62nd Street)
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