“What is love?” — The most searched-for phrase on Google in 2012.
Last year, we took a leap of faith that art and love could indeed hold hands, and asked our social media community to participate in a challenge: write a love letter to a work of art. As submissions rolled in, we were surprised by the nuanced, truly heartfelt creations our visitors were sending in. By the time the project concluded (and a very clever love letter to Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing took the prize), any doubt in my mind about whether people could feel love for an inanimate artwork had been sufficiently expunged. Love was in the air here at SFMOMA, and our hearts sang. Since it was so much fun last year, re-creating the Love Letter to Art project was a no-brainer. I posted the contest to our Facebook page on January 31. Participants were asked to creatively profess their love for a work of art, and then we’d post everybody’s contributions for our social media followers to enjoy. And, of course, we promised to pick a winner to be announced on Valentine’s Day. Are you ready to be wooed?
Drum roll, please…
For her silent and faithfully observant love letter to Agnes Martin’s works on paper, the winner of our Love Letter to Art project is T. Campbell!
Agnes Martin followed a disciplined grid and used a very limited color palette in her artwork, in order to achieve “pure experience, without an outside reference point.” She believed in subtlety, and that the inner contemplation of beauty was a way to achieve perfection in life. In this wordless love letter, Campbell took Martin’s quiet wisdom to heart, and our love-letter challenge one step further than the throes of love at first sight: this beautiful articulation of one artist’s deep appreciation for another reflects a long-lasting relationship built on truth, loyalty, and respect.
While there can only be one winner for our Love Letter to Art project, there was more than enough inventive expressions of affection to warrant a few honorable mentions:
This GIF love/hate letter for Jeff Koons’s Self-Portrait is from last year’s contest winner, Nick Vossbrink. What is art for if not to probe at the push and pull of opposites attracting?
If SFMOMA’s galleries were a high school, our Rothko would be the untouchable kid who was super smart, questionably nice, relentlessly good-looking, and way too cool for you. In this Valentine to Rothko’s No. 14, 1960, submitted by Robyn W., we feel the deep blush that comes only when in the presence of physical and intellectual greatness.
And, we liked Alex Teplitzky’s poignant love letter to Marina Abramovic’s The Artist is Present. From awkward first encounter, he quickly runs the range of heady feeling, from obsession and protectiveness to jealousy and paranoia. Finally though, he comes to the determined conclusion that all lovers of art must face: we are spectators, and as much as we love an artwork, we must inevitably leave the museum and be alone with our feelings, no matter how strong they may be.