“Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971” at MoMA exhibits an oeuvre of painting, sculpture, film, performance, and music by Yoko Ono. The exhibition appears focused on artistic merits, but closer inspection reveals otherwise. Yoko Ono’s pieces are direct—you are told to forget it; the lobotomy needle awaits. You are told to step onto the floor painting, to touch each other— and you reach nervously for the closest stranger.
Although interactive elements were included, (notably Bag Piece (1964)) I could not ignore the barrier between what could and could not be touched. Yoko Ono’s conceptual art completes in the viewer’s mind, but the unperformed pieces cause confusion. Participation in White Chess Set (1966) cannot occur in the guarded work. Visitors can ascend To See the Sky (2015) staircase, while Ceiling Painting (1966) ladder is off-limits? Although these curation choices are likely for protection, learning that John Lennon engaged in the latter and Painting to Hammer a Nail (1961/1966), it becomes clear that celebrity also usurps artistic intention. These regulations defeat Yoko Ono’s message, and instead of breaking down the walls of the museum, we are left in the same space continuing to keep our hands to ourselves amongst historical artifacts.