Our capitalistic culture has traditionally used banners as an advertising tool to communicate information to the public. Museums often use them to draw attention to the exhibitions and projects happening within their doors. From its inception, the banner on the Gardner’s Façade subverted this concept by turning a space for promotion into a public space for art for its own sake. For decades artist Barbara Kruger has deployed the graphic form of public address to question oppression and abuse of power. Who better, then, to respond to the Titian exhibition with a signature work of her own for the Façade?
Our other installation, Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley’s video The Rape of Europa in the Fenway Gallery is a biting, witty, and bawdy twenty-first-century response to the scene of sexual violence romanticized in Titian’s Europa. The artists created a graphically stylized short film that combines painting and performance with Mary Reid Kelley’s satirical poetry. Mary enacts a wide range of mythical characters trapped between comic and tragic scenarios. The character of Europa is updated from a Phoenician princess to a disgruntled and traumatized young professional coping with the aftermath of violent assault, a character resonant with the present-day #MeToo movement. Her rants filled with anxiety, pain, humiliation, and anger are interwoven with theatrical skits, which tell stories of the abuse and accomplishments of women in early history. This episodic fable-like reenactment of stories from classical antiquity provide comic relief and evoke the tales of the Roman poet Ovid, the principal inspiration for Titian’s mythological paintings.