In the House of Balloon Dog

In the House of Balloon Dog : An Anthropologist Investigates the Contemporary Art Museum

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In a striking limestone building at the intersection of Chicago Avenue and Mies van der Rohe Way stands Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, home to work by legends like Andy Warhol, Bruce Nauman, and Kara Walker, as well as newcomers to the always-vibrant international art scene. Never a place for the timid or for those who prefer polite paintings and genteel etchings, the MCA lives by the motto "Fear No Art" - and despite its distinction as one of Chicago's major museums, curators there still deliver the transgressive iconoclasm that has always set the museum apart. In 2008 anthropologist Matti Bunzl was given unrestricted access to the MCA as its staff prepared for a massive retrospective of work by international art superstar Jeff Koons. "In the House of Balloon Dog" catalogs Bunzl's experiences as he observed curators and preparators arranging Koons' stainless steel bunnies and aluminum lobsters - and debating the placement of "Made in Heaven", the provocative series depicting the artist and his erstwhile porn-actress wife in an assortment of uninhibited sex acts.
Bunzl takes readers behind the scenes of the contemporary art museum to reveal how curators select what to show, the role donors play in these decisions, and the ways in which curation and marketing come together - and sometimes come into conflict - in a museum's attempt to reach a larger audience. Featuring appearances by many other leading artists such as Liam Gillick, Jenny Holzer, Karen Kilimnik, and Tino Sehgal, "In the House of Balloon Dog" is the first book of its kind, an eye-opening account of the contemporary art boom and a rare glimpse at the fate and future of art.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 144 pages
  • 152 x 203mm
  • University of Chicago Press
  • United States
  • English
  • 0226924297
  • 9780226924298

Review quote

"Not since Debora Silverman's 1986 Selling Culture has there been such a delicious, astute, and acutely observed account of the cultural economy of contemporary art museums. Embedded ethnographically among the curators of Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, Matti Bunzl redeems the idea of an avantgarde in an art system that so degrades it." -George E. Marcus, coeditor of The Traffic in Culture"
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About Matti Bunzl

Matti Bunzl is professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the artistic director of the Chicago Humanities Festival.
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