Let’s hear it for aerosol art, those images spray-painted on buildings and sidewalks the world over. Also known as Street Art or graffiti, the technique is such a growing movement that a new museum devoted solely to this art form is readying to open in Amsterdam next year. And as far as this column is concerned, housing such work is not a good thing. This is not a judgment on the movement, only to the museum idea.

End of an era

My reasoning begins with a little history. Aerosol art used to be viewed as a scourge. For 15 years, starting in 1970, New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority spent a reported $150 million to erase the graffiti from subway cars.

But then critics, like New York magazine’s Richard Goldstein, got into the act in ’73 to salute the artfulness of this spray paintings and then the art world went nuts for it, mounting street paintings on their walls. And it soon came to pass that aerosol art became the visual culture of the world – well of the cognoscenti, at least.

Behind closed doors

And there’s the rub. With all the recognition in treasure houses from Tokyo to Paris to New York, something got lost in aerosol art when it moved behind closed doors. The general population could no longer see it at will, Paintings can tell a lot of stories – often important ones - but for the man and woman in the street to take notice, the work needs to be in the public eye, not the connoisseur’s eye.

Besides, what’s graffiti doing in a museum anyway? If it hangs inside a building, how can it be called street art? Amsterdam’s forthcoming example is rising some 75,350 square feet, twice as big as Tate Modern in London, boasts it will be the largest holding tank of street art in the world. The news also has it that the museum has already amassed more than 100 aerosol paintings, presumably made expressly for the forthcoming institution.

And according to the curator, these high-rise-tall works will hang next to one another. This brings me to an extension of my argument against museums collecting street art. Call it institutional hierarchy.

Bureaucratic nightmare

Running a treasure house is big business. Besides curators, you need a director, a museum president and a board of trustees that Museum USA says can number as many as two dozen people.

And I’m not even talking about donors and collectors. That‘s a lot of voices to influence decisions about what gets put on a wall. And given the need for security, insurance, temperature control and general operating expenses, entry fees are inevitable. So, goodbye to street art as we know it. Goodbye to artists governed by the marketplace. At this point, the only example of aerosol art at Amsterdam’s emerging venue for the technique will be the 78-foot-tall, 500 spray cans-worth painting of Anne Frank by Eduardo Kobra.