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The Pitcairn Review: “Contemporary View,” by Maze de Boer

Being approximately the size of a large shoebox, the Pitcairn Museum for Contemporary Art is, probably, the world’s smallest museum. I walk past it several times a week, and would happily say it’s my favourite museum. But I’ve never seen any kind of serious writing about it, so in the spirit of living the change, enjoy this recurring feature.

The Pitcairn typically asks you to imagine standing in the space it presents, but for Maze de Boer’s Contemporary View, no imagination is necessary, because we’re already standing in the space. In fact, from this side of the fourth wall, we appear to be the art.

A photograph of the exhibit described in this review. We see the back of what is, relative to the scale of the space, a large canvas, and, in the corner, a tiny fire extinguisher.
“Contemporary View,” by Maze de Boer.

Or, in other words: Ah, a meta one.

From Exhibition Continues Upstairs by Gerbrand Burger and No Show by Maurice Bogeart, which play with the gallery’s implied but non-existent space, to Michell Bows’ Sorry for the Inconvenience, in which the lack of exhibit becomes the exhibit, the meta exhibit is, at this point, a standing tradition at the Pitcairn. Even the fourth wall break of the art gazing back upon you is nothing new, with Jelte van Lente’s Kijkers previously having taken a much more literal approach.

But what we have here is much more pared down than those. There’s no stairwell, no mirror1Unless you count your own reflection in the glass., nothing looking at you. The only things in the space are a large2Relatively speaking. canvas, visible only from behind, a bench, a fire extinguisher, and, in the very back of the space, a sign.3I need to remember to transcribe the text from a better picture.

A lightly blurry photograph of the sign in the back of the space. The text on it can't be made out.

Mostly, I’m bored here. So bored that this review has been sitting here unfinished for four months. The next exhibit will have gone the way of the courier service back to where it came from by the time this review goes up.

So let’s just turn it around. If we are the art… what are tiny visitors to the tiny museum seeing through the fourth wall? Or, well, what did they see, back in November?

A photograph of the street as seen from in front of the Pitcairn Museum.

I walk past there three times a week. Maybe parked vehicles, the top bit of a trash can, and ugly construction fences are inspiring to you, but they’ve lost a little of their luster to me.

The Pitcairn does not publish images of its full exhibits until they’re already gone, but with limited local exceptions, I’m writing for a global audience here. To publish without an image of the full exhibit robs that international audience of context, and to publish with full images spoils the full exhibition for people who might still want to go see it. As a compromise, these reviews run one week before the exhibit closes or, uh, much later.

Some of my photographs of the space have been lightly modified only to obscure my reflection in them.

  • 1
    Unless you count your own reflection in the glass.
  • 2
    Relatively speaking.
  • 3
    I need to remember to transcribe the text from a better picture.
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