08/20/2010 05:57 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Free the Art From the MOMA Jail


Thanks to the mercy of the Target corporation, a reprieve of free art was granted recently at San Francisco's MOMA. I joined the herd moving through the block, where I came across a billiards table. The balls were inviting and I lay down a pose ready to strike a cannon. A great ball of fire engulfed me when a nasty little lady in a suspicious looking security uniform roared two vile words in my direction - Excuse me! Not that I was actually close to touching the expression of a billiard table in an art gallery, merely creating the impression of being ready to take a pop at the art. She reached for her menacing radio, ready to report the violator among the herd - all I could think of saying was, Could you tell me where the art is around here?

Each room in the museum began to take on a cell block look, with guards posted everywhere, making the herd nervous, and I could not tell if the paintings were the prisoners or us. Recently, I had wandered through a museum in Paris and found little in the way of security mania, no one making the viewer nervous for looking too closely at a Van Gogh. It seemed that the colors of Homeland Security profiling had arrived at MOMA. Perhaps the training manual profiled art threats - Guards, watch out for the bored ignoramus mistaking billiard tables in art galleries as billiard tables.

Turning away from some random splotches of paint thrown on the wall, the photograph collections were rather good, as were the Chuck Close works, while sitting mesmerized in front of the Rothko I imagined the sun going down on modern art and its jail.

Alan Black is the author of Kick the Balls - An Offensive Suburban Odyssey.