map of PMA, Jenny Kessler, Curate This


A Comprehensive(ish) Visitor’s Guide to the Philadelphia Museum of Art

I met Jenny Kessler when she was directing a production of Mac Wellman’s Cellophane in last year’s Fringe and I interviewed her about putting the impossible on stage. Her range of talents is pretty expansive, including graphic design and illustration, costume and puppet design, and directing, among others. I suggest perusing her illustrations—from the mystery and vulnerability of floating in space to the grotesque cuteness of alt meat, and my current favorite, the 9-1-1 cow. We’re very excited to have her curating a week of content at Curate This!

This guide to the PMA is foolproof. I have personally taken this route every time I’ve visited the venerable institution, and it has always made the experience a great one.

map of PMA, Jenny Kessler, Curate This

  1. Arrive at the museum, having consumed a donut and iced coffee, foolishly believing that they will sustain you during your visit.
  2. Realize it’s 3:30pm and you will only have 1.5 hours in the museum. Decide it’s still worth it.
  3. Take a left, and start walking towards the back entrance of the museum, to see the sculpture by Giacometti.
  4. Walk by the Perelman Building, on your right. You’ve heard they have such a great collection! You’ve always wanted to see it, but clearly never made the time to do so.
  5. Walk up the steps to the back entrance. Admire the sculpture by Giacometti. Wait, no…it’s not Giacometti. I totally thought it was? Huh. Welp, i have no idea who made it, but it definitely LOOKS like a Giacometti.
  6. Purchase tickets, ideally using an expired student ID.
  7. Walk up the steps to the main entrance. Enter the galleries on the 1st floor, to go to the Duchamp gallery. You know, the guy who put a urinal on a pedestal, signed it, and called it art? Today just feels like the kind of day to look at some infuriating Dadaism.
  8. Take a right into Gallery 152. Enjoy some dank impressionism. Wonder why all the moms you know love impressionism.
  9. Remember the amazing Cy Twombly exhibit and try to remember how to get there.
  10. Take a step into the small gallery on the side. Pause to reflect on how annoying Renoir’s nudes are. (pro-tip: it’s because he used a base color for skin that artists typically use for FRUIT. So all his naked ladies are looking ripe for the pickin’. Hard pass.)
  11. Feel the energy from the aforementioned donut and coffee begin to wear off. This will certainly turn into a migraine.
  12. Spend time in the Cy Twombly exhibit. Linger on the ferocity of the reddish-orange clouds. Take in the disturbing charcoal etches of names memorialized in time and death. Consider how Twombly subverts the precedents of art history, showing the true ravages of war, encapsulating the pure despair that violence leaves in its wake.*
    (*Unless you hate Twombly’s work. It’s just a bunch of smudges and fingerprints on a canvas! How is this hanging in a museum?!)
  13. Finally enter the Duchamp collection. Stop, can you feel it? It’s the collective rage of the art world.
  14. You can’t tell if the pounding in your head is your migraine, or the collective rage of the art world.
  15. Give the photo of Alfred Stieglitz the stink-eye. He deserves it. #TeamGeorgiaOKeeffe
  16. Without a doubt, this is the worst migraine you have ever experienced in your life. This is not a direction in the tour, this is just a fact.
  17. Enter the dimly-lit space in the back of the gallery. Encounter the wooden door, with a small peephole upon the handle. Approach the peephole. Look inside.
  18. Feel your soul split from your body. Your migraine has taken over your consciousness, there is no going back now. You rush deeper and deeper into a realm beyond explanation. Art has never existed outside the self. You have always been the art. The migraine is the art. Your butt is the art. Your butt is in front of the urinal. The urinal is everywhere. The urinal is everything. The urinal is GOD.
  19. Realize it’s now 4:45pm and you really should get going.
  20. Scurry back through the wing. Notice the Rauschenbergs and Jasper Johns and all the other art you wish you had taken the time to look at.
  21. Remember that there’s a hilarious 19th century plate on the other side of the museum that reads “Oh, you ugly slut.” I am not making this up.
  22. Run through the rest of the wing, through the front entrance, to the other side of the building, past Renaissance masterpieces and American stained glass and portraits, coming close to crashing into a vase.
  23. Find the plate. It’s hand-painted, clearly done by a commoner, outside the confines of the elite sphere of Art. See the lettering clearly: “You…ugly…slut.” Truly, there is no better example of Quality than this.
  24. On your way out, quickly stop by the bathroom. Notice a small signature reading “Duchamp” on the basin of the toilet.
  25. Smash the toilet to pieces.
  26. Leave through the front of the museum, vowing that next time, you will absolutely see more of the PMA.
Yours as Much as Mine, Maria Dumlao


Picking Up a Pencil and Other Directions

Maria Dumlao works with photography, artists’ books, installation, performance, sound, and video. Her fantastic exhibition at Vox Populi last September, Next to Nothing, consisted of three works: one single-channel video, a multi-channel video, and a portable record player with a 7-inch painted vinyl record, spinning. The video, Yours As Much As Mine, isolates everyday house-hold objects in a suspended animation which takes these objects out of context and takes the viewer out of this world.

For her contribution to Curate This, I asked Maria to give me a set of items that everybody should read, view, watch, etc.

-Julianna Foster, curator

Some homework for Curate This‘ readers, in no particular order:

  • Read “Some Sound Observations” written by Pauline Oliveros. This essay appears in the anthology Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music, edited by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner. Here’s a pdf I found online.
  • Read this sentence and tell me you can’t hear the lamp in your room, the electricity behind the walls, the creaking beams in your house, the construction outside, and the motorbikes in Philly. See if you succeed in unhearing them.
  • John Whitney, “Catalogue” 1961, 16mm film (color and sound) 9 minutes. A digital video from the film is currently exhibited at the MoMA, but here it is in YouTube. Feast on abstraction in motion.

John Whitney, “Catalogue” 1961

  • Oblique Strategies, written instructions by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. When you’re in the studio and you just need to take a break, get ready to pick a card from a deck and “play.” Be open to diversions. If you want to play with me, I’ll post one a day on Instagram.

Oblique Strategies, written instructions by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt

  • Visit the non-western wing of PMA, the Met, or any big museum. Whether it’s called primitive, pre-Columbian, African, pre-historic, Oceanic, whatever it is, it’s a reminder that art (and the art world) as we know it is one of many narratives. An example I like to ponder is the ubiquitous crucifix and how its symbolism was used by some cultures as a representation of the cyclical birth/life/death/underworld before the Christian conquistadors colonized.
  • Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge (A Radical History of Plants, Drugs, and Human Evolution), written by Terence McKenna in 1992, is relevant due to our search into altered states of consciousness and as an elucidation of many of our sorrows, be it addiction, materialism, and the fear of self-awareness. Solutions have been in front of us all along.

Food of the Gods by Terence McKenna

  • Sharpen a #2 pencil or take hold of a Sharpie. With these power tools, draw/write what you would otherwise post in social media. Try it for a day and don’t stop if you can help it.

Maria Dumlao pencils

  • Living Photograph: Chris with Teacup on YouTube. I discovered this one-minute video in 2007 (YouTube was established in 2005) and I don’t know who the maker is or what it is about. I can’t believe it’s still up after 9 years. I revisit it to be reminded of the possibilities of YouTube and how it has now become our everyday landscape. It’s not as strange as anything we see now, but it’s a prominent early memory.
Losing My Religion. Photo by Rachel Wisniewski._small

My Problem with the Arts in Philadelphia

Losing My Religion

Giappo has (literally) stuck his face all over the city. Yet the ownership, the relationship between the artist and the city, that these stickers imply may be misleading. As an ex-gallery owner in Philadelphia, a lifelong artist, and long time curator in the city, Giappo has born witness to the flux of interest in Philadelphia’s art scene from the inside and outside. Despite the challenges, Giappo continues to strive for global recognition in a gallery scene that so frequently ushers its saviors to the manger.

Amanda V. Wagner, co-founder

I recently realized that I’ve lost my faith in art just like I lost my faith in religion in my youth. More particularly I’ve lost my faith in the Philadelphia art market. I’m so severely jaded that I’ve become an apostate to the art community of my native city, which I once believed in so wholeheartedly.

To preface, I have seen it from many different angles. From artist to curator, art director to gallery manager, and dealer to advisor, I’d worn almost every hat possible in the tiny art market of Philadelphia by the time I was 27. I started my own grassroots gallery space in 2005 (The Spot). I’ve been the art director of several galleries (Jane and Bert Gallery, The F.U.E.L. Collection 2006), I held the position of managing director of The Knapp Gallery from 2007-2009, I started my own gallery program JSF Contemporary with pop up shows in Old City, Fishtown, and even Tribeca in NYC in 2010, and eventually owned my own commercial gallery space in Fishtown in 2012. And after all of these experiences I have realized one thing: the majority of people in Philadelphia don’t give a shit about art, most especially from the standpoint of actually supporting it by buying it.

And I know you’re probably thinking that I’m just being negative. Well, I am being negative, but for good reason, because I’m sick and tired of hearing the same shit about Philly that I’ve been listening to for the past fifteen years. Why don’t we have a better art market? Where are the collectors? Why isn’t Philly more like New York?

Why is it that a city that is home to the PMA, the Barnes, the Rodin, ICA, PAFA, UArts, Tyler, etc. etc. has such a dilemma when it comes to its own art market? Philadelphia produces more artists than almost any city in the country. We have the most art colleges. We are home to some of the best art collections and institutions in the world. Yet we do not have an art market that can sustain artists’ careers. Few and far between are the Philadelphia artists who have managed to make a living for themselves without holding some type of full time job, most of the time an art teaching position.

Art collecting has been and still is for the most part a luxury for the ultra rich. This is true in most of the world, and Philadelphia is no exception. Most of our philanthropic donations go to our museums and institutions (just take a look at the list of gifts from major grantmakers in Philadelphia for proof of this). This is not a bad thing necessarily, but it points to a major problem: old money and new money alike are not truly investing in young, mid-career or even seasoned artists of our city.

Now again just to be clear I am not talking about the art scene in our city, but the art market. This online publication is testament itself to how young artists are taking control of the scene and opening up a critical discussion about its positives and negatives. Not to mention the many artist-run spaces, collectives and so on in our city.

I truly believe that one of the main parties responsible for holding our city back in the contemporary art market is the art galleries themselves. There are only a rare few that actually maintain a program truly focused on progressive contemporary art; the rest fall into the comfortable sphere of academic realism (a Philly favorite), regurgitated ideas, familiar names, easily digestible or mind-numbing abstraction, minimalism, or zombie formalism that would look great over the couch in a house on the Main Line.

In addition to this, many of our galleries are unwilling to work together to create a gallery community. They feel that they are in competition! I can say this from experience because I’ve tried several times to organize a Philadelphia gallery association, and I was unsuccessful every time. The most common response from the gallerists was that they didn’t want to share their precious collectors. A business associate and client of mine once said, “Galleries are like restaurants, of course I have my favorite but I don’t like to eat there all the time.” This may sound silly but it rings true. With only a small amount of serious contemporary art galleries in our city I don’t believe that any two are alike nor are they directly in competition due to the work that they focus on. If they were to work together to promote gallery tours for their collectors and educate them on the diversity of the art scene in Philadelphia I firmly believe that this would work wonders.

Finally I would like to place the blame on the collectors themselves. Each art collector in our city has the obligation to participate in the energetic and ever-blossoming Philadelphia art scene (and to encourage and invite friends, family and colleagues) by purchasing from local artists. Just as the galleries should form an association, I would like to call out any serious art collector in our city to also form a group or association for collectors with the hope of educating people on the importance of collecting art and supporting local artists and galleries.

Philadelphia will never become a serious international market for contemporary art unless we all start by working together—artists, galleries and collectors. Collaboration may sound like a flat pitch, but it’s a way for Philadelphians to create a sustainable environment for artists. Faith in our art scene, like religious faith, can be rekindled, but a spiritual revelation would be needed to reconstruct our flawed infrastructure.

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Take Your Shoes Off at the Door

My Top Five Fall Picks


Fall is a time for art. Whether you associate the season with going back to school, or are just too upset that the cool weather doesn’t linger like it used to, there is always something to do and see in fall. After pope mania dies down and you’ve returned to (what’s left of) the city, check out my top five art events to participate in this fall.

  1. Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life, Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 27, 2015 – January 10, 2016

The exhibition focuses on still lifes as a genre, and the variety of approaches taken from the genre’s beginnings in the late 1700s up to the 1960s. “The exhibition will be divided into four chronological sections that mirror still life’s periodic resurgence in the United States.” The exhibition’s title, which received half an eye roll from me—we get it, people will come to see Warhol and purchase tote bags with his work printed on them—hints at long list of featured work, including still lifes from Raphaelle Peale, William Michael Harnett, and Arthur B. Carles.

  1.  Josephine Pryde: lapses in Thinking By the person i Am, Institute of Contemporary Art, through December 27

The ICA is currently featuring the first work of Pryde to be shown in a US museum exhibition. The exhibition has everything: close-up photos of hands, a miniature train—okay, perhaps not everything, but the photographs assert a contemporary feel that we have grown to expect from the ICA’s shows.

  1.  Memorabilia, The Fabric Workshop and Museum, September 12, 2015 – November 15, 2015

The FWM has long been one of my favorite art establishments in the City and has attracted phenomenal talents. This season composer, musician, and theater artists, Cynthia Hopkins, celebrates prior musical theater performances through “the materials collected from the detritus of Hopkins’ performance pieces.” The objects (hand-written notes, fragments of her costumes and props woven into quilts) flirt with concepts of mourning experience, but could potentially resonate as an unfinished product. The FWM opens the exhibition doors for a public reception on October 2, 2015.

  1. Philadelphia Open Studio Tours, dates throughout October

If you have never participated in POST or visited a local artist’s studio, you should absolutely partake. The tour will introduce you to new local art and artists. I highly encourage you to find work that you like and BUY it! #supportlocalart

  1. Signs of Change: Opening Reception + Artist Panel, October 14, 2015

Next Stop: Democracy and Streets Department partner with 60 local artists and ask, “Can 60 of Philly’s most inspired artists help to increase voter turnout this coming Election Day, November 3rd, 2015?” The show displays a collection of “Vote Here” signs from NoseGo, Isaiah Zagar, Joe Boruchow, Kid Hazo, Old Broads, Dominic Episcopo, Gaia, Anthony (Seper) Torcasio, Harlequinade, Darla Jackson, Kelly Kozma, Hawk Krall, Brendan (Peopledelphia) Lowry, Amber Lynn, Ryan Beck, Jessie Mademann, Sean Martorana, Dennis Murphy, Mike L. Perry, Sophie Roach, Miriam Singer, Jason Andrew Turner, Mac Whalen, Aubree Eisenwinter, Sean Brown and many more. This is an event you will not want to miss.

Photo by Ahd Photography



Amanda is an artist and writer living in Philadelphia. Her work has been displayed at the Philadelphia Institute of Contemporary Art, featured at festivals, and in events with Fait Du Vide Collective. Amanda has published with, the Philadelphia Daily News, Art Attack, and VICE Media. In her spare time she likes to drink and draw naked ladies.