Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University

Note:  Columbia’s Wallach Art Gallery was the second place I reviewed on this epic quest.  I published the review below on March 5, 2017.  The Wallach Gallery subsequently moved to spiffy new space in Columbia’s new arts center, and I’ve created a re-review of it. Read that here.

Edification value
Entertainment value
Should you go? 2/5
Time spent 24 minutes
Best thing I saw or learned A postcard rack with postcards based on a large-scale photograph Carissa Rodriguez took of a photograph by Trevor Paglen (of a secret military base), hanging in the home of Bay Area art collectors Mike and Kaitlyn Krieger.  I am a sucker for meta.

My second entry and already I’m in trouble.  Am I reviewing spaces, or exhibits?  The Wallach Gallery, on the 8th floor of Schermerhorn Hall at Columbia, has no permanent collection.  It is just a space for temporary shows.  I started writing this about “Finesse,” the current show there, and realized that’s not quite right.

It’s a decent space, comprising several rooms of various sizes, high ceilings, reminiscent of academic offices in an historic old school building, where some department or other has been unceremoniously evicted.  That might literally be what it is, for all I know.  The windows were blacked out but that might be just for the current show. Definitely the space would have more appeal with windows.

Anyway, Wallach. It’s a decent space to see some art.  Way up in Morningside Heights. Should you go?  It totally depends on what’s showing there. If you happened to be visiting Columbia for other reasons, sure, why not, check it out. But I wouldn’t make a special trip, unless they had something extraordinary going on.


As far as “Finesse” goes, there were some cute ceramic kitties by Phoebe d’Heurle and some clever trompe l’oeil by Lucy McKenzie.  It was very representational, art-wise, and I respect that. The theme is taken from a quote from Louise Lawler, who said (paraphrasing) that art can’t just subvert or intrude anymore, it has to finesse. So here’s some art and artists that finesse. The problem is that Lawler herself said that finessing by itself is not enough.

Reference:  Wallach Art Gallery