x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A wonderful collection that deserves better

Readers are excited about the Abu Dhabi exhibition of post-war American art, but argue that the curator has mischaracterised the origins and inspirations of the featured artists.

Readers are excited about the Abu Dhabi exhibition of post-war American art, but arge that the curator has mischaracterised the origins and inspirations of the featured artists.
Readers are excited about the Abu Dhabi exhibition of post-war American art, but arge that the curator has mischaracterised the origins and inspirations of the featured artists.

The ultimate collection: Larry Gagosian offers Abu Dhabi a glimpse of his treasures (September 23) is extremely problematic. The editorial issues are one thing (it should be "gestural abstraction" not "textual abstraction"), but the comments of Anne Baldassari, the director of the Picasso National Museum require greater examination. Start with the curatorial conceit: picking letters from the end of the alphabet because Arabic is read from right to left. Could the idea be any thinner? In that light, shouldn't the show be called "WTSR"?

To say that all of these artists are closely linked to the West Coast is laughable. Only Richard Serra was born there. With the exception of Ed Ruscha, all of these artists epitomised the New York art scene. It was where all of their careers were made - Gagosian's too. And it is simply wrong to say that Robert Rauschenberg lived in LA. After New York, he spent the last 30 years of his life in Florida.

Her comments about the "creation" and discovery of the West along with her statement that the artists weren't "immersed in American culture", but were discovering it with European eyes, rely on stereotypes rather than facts.

Kevin McCoy, Associate Professor of Art at NYU - Abu Dhabi 

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The RSTW exhibition in Abu Dhabi is certainly not to be missed by anyone interested in modern art and the work of a collection of artists who were part of a movement that transformed the US from an artistic backwater to the centre of artistic production in the post-Second World War period.

However, the curator Anne Baldassari provided misleading information about the artists. She incorrectly stated that the artists were from families who emigrated from Europe and thus were not immersed in American culture. On the contrary, Cy Twombly, for example, was born in the quintessential small American college town of Lexington, Virginia. Both he and his father, who played professional baseball, were nicknamed after one of the most famous American baseball players, the pitcher Cy Young.

Robert Rauschenberg was born in Texas. His father was part Native American - Cherokee, to be exact – and his mother was what is known in the US as a WASP, or white Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Ed Ruscha was born in the American heartland of Omaha, Nebraska, and raised in Oklahoma. He has spoken of the influence of his upbringing on his work. Even if all the featured artists had immigrant parents, it would still be incorrect to state, as Ms Baldassari did, that the children of immigrants do not become immersed in American culture. Americans are constructed by their experiences - not by blood or birth - and by their willingness to identify as American. Perhaps Ms Baldassari felt a need to identify the artists with European culture and aesthetics.

Fortunately, it really shouldn't matter to the viewer why Ms Baldassari chose the artists she did, because the exhibit offers us an artistic experience that is unlikely to be repeated on this scale again. 

Mary Ann Fay, Dubai 

Housing woes and a pregnancy 

I am writing to you as a last resort regarding the plight that my four-and-a-half months pregnant wife and I have to go endure every morning, afternoon and night. I am a resident of Shorooq, Mirdiff.

When I moved into my apartment in April 2010, we were promised the works by the real estate agent. Since we moved in, there have been numerous maintenance issues varying from air conditioning failures for more than 48 hours, to water from balconies draining into the apartments. But the main problem is that since August, a defective fire alarm has been going off at irregular intervals. It can go off at 1am, 2.30am, 1pm, etc - it varies from day to day. It has a very shrill and loud noise, which is very painful to the ears.

Initially, the maintenance officers for the property developer would respond to phone calls and reset the alarm. Since it has become an everyday affair, they stopped answering their phones and when they do answer, they don't have a solution. They now have become very rude over the phone and answer by saying it is not their problem. Their reply the residents is this: do whatever you want to do. I have come to conclude that the staff must really be comprised of authoritative men if they are unable to find time for a poor customer like me.

For my pregnant wife, this is a nightmare because she never knows when she will be woken up. I have had to rush her to hospital on two occasions when she had anxiety attacks after the alarm sounded. I have been advised by the doctor that this situation is very harmful and dangerous for the unborn baby and for her. I hold the developer entirely responsible for anything that may go wrong as a result of this situation. This is a clear violation of health and safety standards.

Name withheld by request 

Of Facebook and firearms

In regards to Facebook brings out the inner Neanderthal in all of us (September 28), guns are used to murder innocents and protect the public. The tool itself is not evil; it's the user that ultimately defines it. 

Lambert Espedido, Abu Dhabi