I am fascinated by this story about an art museum that
displays ‘bad art!’ As my Grandmother Oldrieve had an
uncle, so he would be my Great Grand Uncle, with the
well known name of Alexander Calder. I am often asked
about this truly simple, huge, ‘numbered print’ on one
of my apartment walls. I mean, it takes up a lot of
space. It is the size of a movie theater poster.
Almost everyone thinks,
“A child could have drawn that!”
“Why on earth, Robin, do you have that ugly thing on
If you will please imagine six circles, black, red and
blue, with long straight lines coming from each of them,
some straight and a couple crooked. That is the fine
art print, worth over $1000.00 (at last checking in the
70’s) of my distant relative, Alexander Calder. It is
the size of a movie theater poster. Huge!
You may know that Calder ‘invented’ or ‘created’ the
idea or concept of statues and mobiles blended together
to become, ‘stabiles.’
Many famous examples of this are displayed outside of
museums and in downtowns in cities across America and
internationally. The cities of Stuttgard, Germany and
the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art have fine
examples of these combination statues and mobiles.
The other international museums that feature Calder
are in Venezuela, the Netherlands, Paris, France,
and Madrid, Spain.
Closer to home, can be found in the city of Grand
Rapids, Michigan and Montreal, Quebec. Our National
Gallery of Art, in Washington D.C., has a whole room
of Calder’s creations. I don’t feel his paintings or
prints are really interesting but the larger pieces
are very exciting and unique. My family saw the one
in Chicago, Illinois when I was in middle school. My
artist brother, Randy Oldrieve, has made a living
creating sculptures, paintings, murals, logos and
My oldest daughter, Carrie Crain, is also a gifted
I have my own style of ‘dinky art,’ which I am hoping
would not make it into the MOBA.
The idea or thought behind the Calder print, I have no
I have told people that my numbered print may increase
in value or not. I think it looks like circular balloons.
I wish they were ovals. I wish there were squiggly
lines instead of those odd straight lines! If it has
to be simple, let it be ‘cute,’ I think!
Anyway, the Museum of Bad Art, or MOBA, may have wished
to include this print, since unless you saw the ‘Calder’
signature at the bottom, you would think it was ready to
go into a dumpster.
Which the curator, Michael Frank, of MOBA, says many of
their displays came about from trash pickers saving the
homemade art pieces. Others came from donations, garage
and yard sales and thrift stores. The critique or type
of verification for ‘bad art’ is all rather depending
on the viewer. After all, “Beauty is in the eye of the
Where is this MOBA to be found? In a sunny-sounding
place called, Summerville, Massachusetts. There is a
movie theatre on top of this museum of art. Yes, makes
sense to delegate the artworks considered ‘bad’ or ugly,
to the basement!
Most people would not want to buy or look at these
paintings or other pieces of artwork regularly.
In fact, the museum’s reason for existing, since 1994,
is given as:
“To celebrate the labor of artists whose work would be
displayed or appreciated in no other forum.”
A tour guide or ‘docent’ gives further explanation:
“Bad art is still art. It is sincere. It is one of a
They will not accept the mass-produced artwork, such
as paintings on black velvet, no attempts to reproduce
famous artists’ pieces, and no dogs playing poker!
There is a display of diverse subject matters, unique
perspectives and really strange depictions.
Why do they feel this art is valid? Because artists
are trying to communicate. This MOBA is to celebrate
the expression of people who are yearning to be artists.
They may even pour their hearts out on their creations,
not realizing they are not attractive.
Sometimes: Not to anyone!
When people try to donate paintings or pieces to the
museum, the ones who are in charge, including Michael
Frank, determine whether it is a ‘fake.’ If it is
intentionally produced to be ‘bad,’ they feel they can
‘see right through those.’
Interestingly, their stored art pieces are quite large,
enough to share the wealth of bad art, sending exhibits
as farflung as Taipei, Taiwan. The circulating exhibits
are quite popular. Murals, collages, some that need
repaired, adding Christmas lights that have burned out,
all can be part of someone’s idea of a fun day at a
In my own mind, I came up with an explanation for why
I would be interested in going to Summerville, or if
a visiting exhibit came to the Columbus Museum of Art.
I think we all are like ‘deers in the headlights’ or
viewers of accidents on the side of the road, we just
cannot tear our eyes away. The art may be like a “train
wreck” but we may still be curious to see the contents.
The bad products of sincere people, may just be your
‘cup of tea.’
At the very least, you may wish to view the strange
and imaginative pieces online…