Cover image of the review

Hair Pieces installation view, Heide Museum of Modern Art, photograph: Christian Capurro.

Hair Pieces

1 Jun 2024
Heide Museum of Modern Art 4 May - 6 Oct 2024

Hair Pieces is a sizeable exhibition featuring thirty-eight artists about hair curated by Melissa Keys. I was surprised to find there’s an entry fee of $25, which made me realise that I’ve deludedly convinced myself that I can simply walk into exhibitions. According to Heide’s latest public annual report in 2023, they generated $878,336 in admissions, comparable to their programming expenses of $820,299. Their highest operational figure is employee benefits, totalling $2,497,446, although without context, it’s unclear whether this is impressive or not. Coming from the artist-run sector, I’m intrigued by the notion of an entry fee and curious about the melons (slang for millions in Mexico), for it seems ironic that we pay to see exhibitions at public institutions—which have substantial resources available—while we experience art for free in more precarious spaces. Same art, different wall. I’m not trying to make an intelligent remark—we are living a lie!

One could argue that the entry fee serves as a boundary delineating the space and signalling the rules of entry, imbuing the air in the room and the freedom to roam with a more precious feeling. The fee additionally distinguishes blockbuster exhibitions from collection shows and museums from galleries. Upon payment, Heide offers a wristband, symbolising an administrative limit, by granting access to the bearer. There’s no physical barrier preventing visitors from stomping into the exhibition; instead, entry is mediated through a market exchange that is surveilled by staff. This circles back to Hair Pieces, which prompts various reflections on how hair punctuates categorical boundaries.

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