Why Was Beyonce Not Cool Enough for the Smithsonian’s New “Cool” Exhibit?

When two scholars decided to pick 100 of the coolest Americans, it got dicey; here’s why

(José Goulão via Wikimedia Commons)

George Carlin

(Bonnie from Kendall Park, NJ, USA via Wikimedia Commons)

"Someone who I wish was in the exhibit was George Carlin, whom I think absolutely fits, and so did Frank. But we couldn’t find a photo of him. We have to look cool some of the time; we looked at hundreds of George Carlin photos, and in front of the camera he always makes these goofball, 'class clown' photos. He pops his eyes, and he puts his face forward.

It just doesn’t work in a photography exhibit. It doesn’t have the aesthetic, which I call relaxed intensity, that’s the aesthetic sensibility of this exhibit. Almost all the artists’ photos have this relaxed intensity. We can’t put a goofball up there. It would wreck it. So Carlin’s on the alt-list, even though with a different photo he would’ve been on the main list."

About Kirstin Fawcett
Kirstin Fawcett

Kirstin Fawcett reports on the collections, exhibitions, new research and other happenings around the Smithsonian Institution.

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