The People’s Choice

  • The People's Choice, installation view, Ringling Museum, Sarasota, 2000.

  • The People's Choice, installation view, Ringling Museum, Sarasota, 2000.

  • The People's Choice, installation view, Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center, Santa Cruz, 2001.

  • The People's Choice, installation view, Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center, Santa Cruz, 2001.

  • The People's Choice, installation view, Sesnon Gallery, Santa Cruz, 2001.

  • The People's Choice, installation view, Ringling Museum, Sarasota, 2000.

Curated by Komar & Melamid

In 1994 the artists Komar & Melamid commissioned a public-research polling firm to conduct The People’s Choice, the first poll on artistic taste in the United States. Individuals were asked approximately 100 questions on a variety of subjects, ranging from their consumer tastes and recreational activities to their knowledge of famous artists, and their preference for angles, curves, brushstrokes, and particular colors, sizes, content, and style in painting. As Russian émigrés, the artists were intrigued by the idea of the consumer-research poll as an outgrowth of American democracy. At the same time, their interest in democracy led the artists to ask what a genuine people’s art would look like. What is a democratic and populist painting?

Using the data collected in this survey, Komar & Melamid painted a pair of canvases, The Most Wanted and The Most Unwanted, including in each painting what the respondents said they wanted or did not want in a painting. The survey and the resulting paintings come from the artists’ interests in examining people’s underlying attitudes about art and what art might look like, while also challenging the faith that our society puts in statistics.

The People’s Choice was exhibited outside the United States and evolved into a global analysis of what people, defined by their nationality, look for in art. This exhibition brought together for the first time Komar & Melamid’s Most Wanted and Most Unwanted paintings from fourteen countries (China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Iceland, Italy, Kenya, Portugal, Russia, Turkey, the Ukraine, and the United States). This exhibition presented these paintings, as well as the Web’s Most Wanted and Most Unwanted, and a reading room with statistical charts and other data along.



Komar & Melamid

Vitaly Komar (1943) and Alexander Melamid (1945) were born in Moscow and graduated from the Stroganov School of Art and Design in 1967. Their first joint show, Retrospectivism, was in the Blue Bird Café (Moscow, 1967). By 1978, they had moved to New York after their first US show at the Ronald Feldman Gallery in 1976, and their first individual museum show at the Hartford Atheneum (1978). Komar & Melamid were the first Russian artists to receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, and were also the first Russian artists to be invited to Documenta 8 (1987). Their projects in the 90’s were devoted to iconoclasm (Monumental Propaganda, American Dreams), democracy and elitism by statistics (People’s Choice), and ecology (Ecollaboration with Animals, Asian Elephant Project).


touring schedule

Morris Museum
Morristown, NJ, United States
January 9, 2002 - March 4, 2002

Museum of Art and History at the McPherson Center
Santa Cruz, CA, United States
August 24, 2001 - November 18, 2001

University Art Museum, State University of New York
Albany, NY, United States
June 27, 2001 - August 5, 2001

Centrum Sztuki
Warsaw, Poland
April 20, 2001 - June 3, 2001

Klemm Gallery, Siena Heights University
Adrian, MI, United States
February 18, 2001 - March 20, 2001

Morris Museum of Art
Morristown, NJ, United States
November 12, 2000 - February 4, 2001

Bates College Museum of Art
Lewiston, ME, United States
September 8, 2000 - November 3, 2000

Tryon Center for the Arts
Charlotte, NC, United States
June 17, 2000 - August 27, 2000

Ringling Museum
Sarasota, FL, United States
April 14, 2000 - June 3, 2000

University of Arizona Museum of Art
Tucson, AZ, United States
February 5, 2000 - March 31, 2000

Minnesota Museum of American Art
St. Paul, MN, United States
November 12, 1999 - January 21, 2000

University of Missouri - Kansas City Art Gallery
Kansas City, MO, United States
September 3, 1999 - October 29, 1999

Dunlop Art Gallery
Regina, Canada
July 10, 1999 - August 15, 1999

Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Santa Barbara, CA, United States
May 1, 1999 - June 27, 1999

Nevada Museum of Art
Reno, NV, United States
February 24, 1999 - April 25, 1999

Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Alberta College of Art and Design
Alberta, Canada
January 7, 1999 - February 6, 1999

Akron Art Museum
Akron, OH, United States
September 5, 1998 - November 15, 1998

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