Lucian Freudís etchings at the Museum of Modern Art are as bad as it gets.
The show consists of one painting per room surrounded by inferior etchings, based on said painting, done from life on the easel, probably by some intern at MoMA last week, but purportedly by Freud. I wonít embarrass the elite galleries who shipped this product into MoMA by naming them, but Marie-Josee and Henry Kravis made a point of glad-handing the crowd of nobodies at the opening, so I guess someone was having trouble unloading this trash at the gallery level.
Back in 1991, no respectable New York gallery would touch Lucian Freud, because he was considered a self-involved hack who could neither think, paint or draw with any facility. Then, New York art dealer Brooke Alexander did a courageous show of miniature Freud self-portraits at Brookeís Wooster Street space which led to a reconsideration.
Fifteen years later, with auction prices at a premium for Freudís retardataire tableaux, these so-called etchings seek a market. The MoMA show commences with a painting The Painterís Mother Reading, in which a gray shawl and wallpaper absorb the artistís mother in the matter of Vuillard or Van Gogh. Some bad etchings based on this maudlin theme lead into a room featuring more awful prints surrounding Freudís iconic and execrably painted Benefits Supervisor, a fat load who became the inspiration for Jenny Savilleís entire body of work.
Move to a new room, find a painting, in this case, Head of a Naked Girl, from the UBS collection. Freud is master at turning androgyny into dull dishwater, as he tried to justify his manhood to the world via a pitiless, poorly painted gaze on a gender-confused subject. If this girl was naked, Freud missed it.
Moving on past dozens of terrible "etchings," we see Lucianís desperate wrangle, Girl with a Whippet, and some lame pastiche of Chardin before he throws shame in the river and offers paintings of dull men, who could be patrons (?), the artist (?), Don Knotts (?), titled New Yorker in a Blue Shirt and Man in a Blue Scarf, respectively. I think New Yorker in a Blue Shirt was at the opening chatting up Charlie Rose at the opening, but I basically donít care.
Osama Bin Lowry has perfected the elements for the worst museum experience: a big name, a poor installation, inferior product, the MoMA brand in the backrooms of Chelsea, crowds of no-name losers, and the cutting-edge buzz of The Bee Movie. Why does this sucky stuff slouch towards the New Year in the Temple of Nothing? Only Lucian Freud knows for sure, and based on his work in this show, he donít care and neither should you.
"Lucian Freud:† The Painterís Etchings," Dec. 16, 2007-Mar. 10, 2008, at the Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10019
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).