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Star Tribune article Minneapolis Institute of Arts gun show

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The following article was in the Variety section of the Star Tribune on Friday July 18 2003. Read it and come up with your own conclusions. I see it as a shot at the gun owners of the state. If you see it the way I do please boycott the Star and send them a letter and tell them why. We as gun owners must let them know what we think about what the media portrays as the word of the people. At one point in this article Mary classifies the show as propaganda, I see her article as propaganda. You should be as outraged by this as I am. Send this to as many gun owners as you can find.

This can also be viewed at the following site
http://www.startribune.com/stories/1375/3987117.html

Three Centuries of Tradition: The Renaissance of Custom Sporting Arms in America by Mary Abbe
Should you be naive enough to imagine that the 65 guns now on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts are really just fancy-pants decorative art -- as the museum's promotional materials claim -- the gun sights will set you straight.
Angle your head just right and you can peer through the gleaming telescopic sight on the 1987 "American bolt-action rifle, Mauser" or the 1999 "American single-shot sporting rifle, Hagn action" and line up an imaginary target in the cross hairs.
You're probably not supposed to do that, because the show is framed as an exercise in history and aesthetics. You're supposed to be musing about the guns' marvelous craftsmanship and admiring the single shot's "temper-blued express sight with gold lines and a Schmidt and Bender telescopic sight in a custom-made quick detachable mount."


English-American -style (1700s) flintlock pistol

Behind the grandiose title -- "Three Centuries of Tradition: The Renaissance of Custom Sporting Arms in America" -- lurks a gun show, pure and simple. The guns date from the 1660s to today, and were custom-made for clients ranging from French royalty to contemporary collectors. Recent decades have seen a renewed interest in custom-made guns that's similar to the handicraft revival permeating everything from musical instruments and furniture to clothing and jewelry.
Some of the early guns are indeed beautifully ornamented, with gold and silver inlays and fine carving typical of 17th-and 18th-century furniture -- not surprising, because the same artisans often made furniture and weapons. The bulk of the show, however, has no such aesthetic appeal, and quickly deteriorates into a gloomy display of killing tools.


American single-shot sporting rifle, Hagn action, 1999

Most of the guns were intended for shooting game animals, birds or spinning clay discs, and there is something deeply unsettling about encountering so many of them in an art museum. There is, of course, a long tradition of art museums displaying weapons and armor as part of their medieval and Renaissance collections, notably in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. The Minneapolis museum recently added a couple of fancy early guns to its Baroque gallery, where they sit uncomfortably amid the tapestries and paintings.
Such collections are mostly holdovers from the late-19th and early-20th centuries, when rich Americans bought antique armaments in admiration of European culture and history. The "Centuries" show expands on that tradition with contemporary pieces, including some by gunsmiths affiliated with Colonial Williamsburg.
The show is, in other words, impeccably grounded in cultural history and museum practice. Even so, it feels wrong in both time and place. Minnesota's recent gun-law changes make the museum look especially hypocritical. Like most cultural organizations, it bans guns and displays signs to that effect at each entrance. Yet the show celebrates and fetishizes certain types of guns: rich people's.
The exhibition, which the museum organized, was in the works long before the new gun law was passed, but the debate about the role of guns in American life is age-old. For an art museum to start buying and showing guns -- even beautifully crafted, historically resonant models -- can be read only as an endorsement of gun culture. That's both unnecessary and offensive.
The institute's gun show, by contrast, is nothing more than celebratory propaganda hiding behind a thin veneer of historical gimcrackery. To take the most obvious example, it touts the talents of contemporary gunsmiths but says not a word about the Eurocentric classism inherent in a blood sport whose chief practitioners are rich white men. In Britain today, such traditional blood sports as fox hunting pit rural against urban voters and raise screaming newspaper headlines. No such brouhahas cloud the sunny days of happy shooting at the institute.
There are plenty of places where a historical gun show could be contextualized so it made more sense: Colonial Williamsburg; a Western Americana museum; a hunting museum. This show's heavy emphasis on contemporary guns catapults it into the current political debates and makes the Minneapolis museum appear to be a pawn in the gun lobby's maneuverings.
In a recent long and thoughtful interview, director Evan Maurer acknowledged the contradiction in the museum's simultaneously banning and exhibiting guns. He insisted that the show was not taking sides in the public debate, and said the institute had gone out of its way to avoid partisan behavior. It did not seek funding from gun lobbyists, interest groups or manufacturers. It did, however, run ads in sporting magazines, gun-collector publications and the program for the country's biggest antique-firearms show in February. It also made gun-safety information available as part of the show
A gun collector and skeet-shooter himself, Maurer wrote an enthusiastic introduction to the show's catalog. He fondly recalls childhood visits to the arms and armor collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where he would gaze in "reverential communion" at an elegantly engraved, gold-inlaid fowler made for Napoleon I.
The "Centuries" show includes a rifle and four matching pistols by the same gunsmith, Nicholas Noel Boutet (1761-1833). They're unquestionably splendid examples of their craft. Maurer's hope is that viewers' admiration of the Boutet guns will inspire them to visit other parts of the museum.
"Part of my job is to broaden the base of who comes to this museum," he said. "If they've come to see this exhibit, I think they're going to be interested in furniture and decorative arts, and we have a very good chance of showing that the objects they love are very similar to other objects in our collection."
Maybe. Bait and switch sometimes works as a marketing tool. But this show undermines the museum's credibility and is just as likely to offend longtime visitors.

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