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Good times for bad art

Landing a job at the Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) isnít going to make anybody rich. " Weíve never paid a salary for anything, " says co-founder Louise Sacco. " Ever. " Even so, when MOBA announced this week that it has a couple of positions open ó one of them for curator ó the museum received 34 résumés in 24 hours, including one from the director of an art center in Virginia, and one from the director of a multimedia gallery in Florida. Not bad for an institution that got its start in a trash barrel.

MOBA was founded in 1995, when a local art enthusiast named Scott Wilson pulled a painting from the garbage, intending to salvage the frame, and became enamored of the workís sheer dreadfulness. Since then, MOBA has acquired a 240-piece collection and an international reputation. " We have an e-mail list of over 6000 people from all over the world, " Sacco says. " Katie Couric did a piece on us. Weíve been on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, Wired, and probably 200 other publications. "

On Monday, MOBA will continue its unlikely march to success with its latest exhibit, " Freaks of Nature. " The showís opening-night gala, which will feature a Cheetos and Kool-Aid buffet, will showcase 25 of the museumís pastoral artworks, highlighting some of the themes peculiar to MOBAís collection. " Bad artists do very specific things with nature, " Sacco explains. " They tend to have trees that march in rows, bodies of water that stop and start mysteriously, and flowers that look like lollipops. " The nationally syndicated radio show The Osgood Files will be on hand to cover the affair.

Understandably, there are some who remain perplexed by MOBA. After all, in a city brimming with first-rate art, why would anyone frequent a gallery that specializes in crap? The secret, Sacco says, is in the selection process ó MOBA is very picky about the crap it accepts. " We only take about 10 percent of what we get, " Sacco says. " Some of it isnít art, some of itís not that bad, and some of itís boring. There are rules of thumb. We have a longstanding policy on paintings on velvet, because of sanitation issues. And the collection needs to be balanced, so we probably donít need any more clowns. "

Even so, Sacco admits that the museumís new curator will face significant challenges. " Itís like any museum, " she says. " How do you decide whatís good? And as with any museum, the curator gets the final call. " Meanwhile, the applicant who secures the other open position ó director of aesthetic interpretation ó faces a similarly daunting task: composing the descriptions that accompany each work. ( " This blending of big-top themes, with a piercing study of the dark side of human nature, elevates the well-worn clown genre to a new and exhilarating level. " )

Judging by the level of interest shown so far, MOBA will have little trouble filling its vacancies. But even then, the museum will be far from fully staffed. A security guard or two, for instance, would be in order ó it turns out that some bad-art buffs are a little too appreciative. " A few years ago we lost one of our favorite paintings, a wonderful piece called Eileen, " Sacco recalls. " We never did get it back. It was stolen a year or two after the big theft at the Gardner, but we havenít been able to show a link. "

Applicants should send résumés to or apply in person at the " Freaks of Nature " event, which is being held on April 28 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Dedham Community Theater, 580 High Street, in Dedham. Call (781) 444-6757.

Issue Date: April 25 - May 1, 2003
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