“Skin Fruit” at the New Museum Reviewed

The New Museum is packed tight with coveted art bling today. Rummaging through Dakis Joannou’s voluminous, much-talked-about private collection, guest curator Jeff Koons has turned up some cool stuff. The phrase “museum ethics” hasn’t really crossed my mind, but “fruit salad” has.

The focus is pretty loose: genesis, original sin, sex, interior/exterior and so forth. While most works do dress or peel the human form nicely — Pawel Althamer’s Nomo gilded spaceman/medieval warrior, Kiki Smith’s mouth-masturbating Mother/Child, Paul McCarthy various penis-nosed and pig-bodied rapscallions — others stick out sorely — Koons’ own weaseled-in basketball and the exhibit’s most expensive trinket, Charles Ray’s clever but caption-requiring carousel (that wins the “Work I Want to Ride” award.) A tad off-topic standout is Tino Seghal’s This is Propaganda, a one-line song performed by interchanging museum attendants which at first felt like a sincere outburst (sincerely appreciated).

The problem wasn’t so much ethical as organizational. With so much packed together, spatial juxtapositions seemed circumstantial and not conceptual — Robert Gobert’s Two Spread Legs are [possibly intentionally] lost in his Highway wallpapered room with warped Pitched Crib, while others are almost stacked between corners and doors. There are some genuinely interesting works and variety is always fun, but the show feels crowded. With so much expensive stuff to parade about, that must have been hard to avoid. New Museum’s board of trustees member Joannou is a collector with wide grabbing-up ability, but Koons’ curating approach is less than cohesive. “Skin Fruit” — half-way between luxurious garage sale and exhibit: It’s worth seeing the peaches if you don’t mind the piles of prunes.

Images: Marina Galperina