David Ebony, 'David Adamo, Museum Museum: XX, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art', Art in America, March 2008.

Can an artwork exist without an audience? When we gaze at an art object do we participate in a sort of ritual act that makes each of us an essential collaborator in the artistic process? Is art viewing itself a performance, a unique artistic endeavor that varies with each individual? These are the kinds of questions posed by David Adamo's wry action Museum Museum: XX at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The day-long performance, if you will call it that, consisted of the artist dressed in a black sports jacket and grey pants, casually standing in front of and intently looking at John Singer Sargent's iconic painting, Madame X (Madame Gautreau), 1883-84, hung near a second-floor stairwell in the Met's American Wing. According to a press statement, the Performa project was organized by curators Howie Chen and Gabrielle Giattino of Dispatch Bureau, although one wonders what curatorial effort was involved in this simple and static affair. In fact, there was something so unassuming about Adamo's presentation that I walked right by him a number of times before I realized he was "performing".

I observed him for a while as he pondered the mysterious Madame X; he stood unflinchingly while a large group tour group listened to a docent's long-winded discourse on the painting in Portuguese. Thomas Struth's photos of museum-goers came to mind as I found myself frozen in space, an inadvertent co-star of Adamo's show. At one point, I ventured to disrupt his trance with a few questions, and he seemed to welcome the break. He referred to the event as his private marathon dedicated to one of his favorite paintings; in no way was it a masochistic exercize. "How does your mental and physical state change in the course of the day, and how does it affect your perception of the painting?" I asked. He offered that after some hours of staring at the canvas, he started to hallucinate, but he could not give further details before other Madame X admirers stopped by for a prolonged visit, and we all fell silent.