It’s that longing that carries through the exhibit, even as the “unfinished” theme falls apart with the introduction of modernism. “Thoughts left visible” begins to feel like a bit of a lazy concept when used to describe abstract and conceptual work. George Brecht’s Repository is claimed to be unfinished because it is now displayed in a glass case for preservation, eliminating its intended interaction and mutability. If a work is intended to be always changing does that make it unfinished?
The show doesn’t veer much from a linear, western canon of art history, nor does it even begin to tackle performance art. According to show's reasoning that open-ended works are "finished" by their audiences, this could have been an interesting area to tackle.
In a rare moment of trans-historical juxtaposition in one of the last rooms, Rodin’s marble figures are displayed next to sculptures by Louise Bourgeois and Bruce Nauman. I wonder what the effect of the show would have been had it all been curated in this way. In this last room, what binds the works together is not their varying degrees of finish, but the sense that they are all grasping after something fleeting. Perhaps all art, in this view, is incomplete.