The Broad Art Museum at Michigan State introduced a new art exhibit Feb. 20 titled “24/7: Art + Labor Around the Clock.” According to the museum website, the artwork in the exhibit showcases the influence of the seemingly never-ending work cycle on modern art and society.
The exhibit is on display in the lower level of the museum and will be on display until Aug. 22. Katie Greulich, the assistant curator of academic collaborations, hand-selected the artwork to fit the theme from the Broad museum’s vast collection of modern artwork.
“I decided to go through the lens of time because I think a lot of us are sort of living in a COVID reality where it's really difficult to perceive the different sections of a day,” Greulich said. “There have been lots of times in history when people have had really long intensive and grueling work hours, and our collection actually documents quite a lot of that. So that's sort of the inspiration for the show.”
There are over thirty pieces of art on display in the exhibit, according to Greulich. The predominant medium for the collection is photography, showing the demanding nature of work in capitalist societies during the 20th century.
Greulich said that when she began to select art for the exhibition, she looked for art that took a long time to create. She said that the long process to create the art mirrors the message in the art itself, showing that even artists can succumb to a grueling work cycle too.
One example of artwork that took a long time to create is "The Unbearable Heaviness of Industry" by Zhue Hai, which is a collection of photographs that depict the lives of industrial workers in China, as well as a photo collection by Imre Benkö, showcasing the dismantling of a Hungarian iron foundry.
"Those processes take a really long time, and both of those photographers really invested a lot of time in doing that,” Greulich said.
Greulich said that working from home during the pandemic served as inspiration for the exhibition. She said she wanted to look for art that displays alternative work timelines because so many people have had to change their work schedules due to the pandemic.
“For me, personally, I have two small children,” Greulich said. “And we didn't have childcare for quite a lot of time in the pandemic, so I was just sneaking work in at any time that I could do it. And that was really hard, and I think a lot of parents feel the pain on that.”
The 24/7 exhibit is on display in the museum for visitors, along with seven other exhibits that have been introduced since the museum reopened in the fall.
The Broad Art Museum closed when Michigan State shut down campus-wide activity in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and remained closed until Sept. 1.
“While we were closed, we were all sort of dealing with the same kinds of things that everybody else was dealing with in the early days of the pandemic, trying to figure out what we should be doing with our time, what would be of most value to our constituents,” Greulich said. “And we started to really work on creating digital programming, digital tours.”
Greulich said that the virtual programming tours have been a success for the museum because they have been able to engage a global audience and display their art to many who wouldn’t have had the chance to see it if it was not online.
“We've been able to reach audiences from across the country through our virtual programming, which is really exciting,” Greulich said. “And we hope those visitors will want to come to the museum someday to see us in person. But in the meantime, it's fantastic to be able to talk to people all over the country and the world through our virtual programs. So that's for certain one thing I think will continue for some time going forward.”
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