In Praise of Folly: Five Artists after Philip Guston at Missoula Art Museum
In 2018, the Missoula Art Museum (MAM) borrowed Philip Guston’s Cigar (1969) as a single object loan to to hang in their collection galleries. Once the work was in the museum – and through conversations with Art Bridges – Cigar inspired the museum team to invite five nationally known artists with ties to their region to respond to Guston’s painting.
The result, In Praise of Folly: Five Artists after Philip Guston, was a special exhibition on display in Missoula from January 25 through September 21, 2019. It featured Guston’s canvas alongside new works by artists Adrian Arleo, John Buck, Richard Notkin, Jay Schmidt, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith.
The artists were selected because of a conceptual or aesthetic affinity for Guston’s art and the expectation that the results would shed a new light not only on each artist’s individual practice, but also on the many ways Guston’s work might resonate with contemporary art. The responses to the political and racial content of Cigar and to Guston’s artistic style offered an exhibition that was varied in media and scale, with surprising conversations between the works of art. These five artists evoke, investigate, and complicate Guston’s artistic legacy, demonstrating the continuing power of his work as a touchstone for contemporary art.
The museum developed a variety of exciting and diverse programs which helped to expand audiences, incorporate interdisciplinary approaches to art, and create new community partnerships. Programs also enhanced the museum’s commitment to its core values artist-driven projects, contemporary art, diversity, risk taking, and difficult conversations with civility.
In Praise of Folly was the basis for launching a new distance-learning program, Museum as Megaphone, which uses an interactive, online platform to engage rural and tribal schools when access to the physical museum is prohibitive. Students participate in real-time, interactive experiences in MAM’s galleries and connect directly with artists and art educators, including through an inquiry-based tours and hands on art projects. The museum successfully piloted this program with two classrooms from St. Ignatius Elementary School in St. Ignatius, Montana.
Missoula Art Museum (MAM)