The fickle finger of fabulousness:
Call it Kustom Kulture, like the artist Dzine does, or call it social sculpture, or call it performance art that comments on the multiplicity of subcultures that use nail design to flaunt creativity, identity, and tribal affiliation. Or call it unprecedented that a cutting-edge museum, a fancy art gallery, and a groovy hotel collaborated to help the artist, whose real name is Carlos Rolon, stage a nail salon at the New Museum to coincide with his “environmental sculpture” on view at Salon 94 around the corner. At a time when the separation between “low art” and high becomes ever more porous; in a field already conquered by street art and comics; the Imperial Nail Salon vaults the New Museum to a new frontier, where cultural nonprofit meets service industry—much to the dismay of my colleague Judith Dobrzynski, who thinks the project is too “commercial.” Exit through the gift shop! The Imperial Nail Salon is hardly a typical manicure. So maybe it’s the wrong kind of bling?
Or maybe the problem is the reverse—that the project is still too exclusive, being that it’s already booked up. The limited-edition sets of “unique 24kt gold-plated Pinky Nails" the museum sells in its store are $250 a pop. And this December, the artist is staging a kind of “inner-city nail salon” at the Standard Hotel during Art Basel Miami. Why do we have a feeling we won’t be able to get into that one either?
In the end, besides reflecting the art world’s simultaneously enthusiastic and uncomfortable embrace of ghetto culture, the salon raises another issue that bedevils the post-feminist museum-goer in today’s challenging times: if you only have $12 dollars, do you spend it on museum admission—or on a manicure?