Let’s say you have a building to tear down. Why not give it a chance to say goodbye? That’s the idea behind the 337 Project. Adam Price, the owner of the building at 337 South 400 East, decided that before demolition, he’d invite local artists to transform the structure into a temporary exhibit space. 337 was open for just 11 days with big crowds and long waits to get in.
The result? Let me start with this; I love the idea and congratulate Mr. Price on such an ambitious project. I was also happy to see such a response from the community, particularly the attendance. I like to complain that Salt Lake can’t support visual arts projects because people just aren’t interested. The 337 Project may have changed my mind (but only a little).
The art was a mixed bag. Most of the work was pedestrian, resulting in an exhibit that was messy and temporary. I guess that’s expected when the work is to be destroyed in a week or two. But for me, it was too messy, a free-for-all that seemed to say, “it doesn’t have to be good because it won’t be around anyway.”
Part of the problem was the extreme inclusiveness, with more than 100 artists and no selection process. I talked to one artist who gestured toward a nearby four-year-old and said, “He created a work.” No offense, but four year olds don’t create works of art, they color on the walls.
Much of the work was street art. While I like the idea of street art as fine art (see Haring, Basquiat, and Banksy) not all street art can make the jump. At 337, the good and the bad were so indistinguishable that neither made much of a statement. It would have been more effective if one artist had created a vision for large areas and invited graffiti artists to help realize that vision.
I know what you’re thinking, “Oh listen to Jeff, Mr. Negatron, Mr. Art Snob. Who made him the expert in scheduled-to-be-demolished-building art?” So before you totally hate me for criticizing the cute child artist, let me try to redeem myself. There was some good stuff. So in the next several days, I’ll select some of the works I liked best and write brief reviews. I’ll try not to gripe too much.