The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum

The power of the institution to elevate the status of any object to art
'Devil's rope' aka - barbed wire, makes an unusual object of appreciation
'Devil's rope' aka - barbed wire, makes an unusual object of appreciation

The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum in La Crosse, USA, hosts a collection of 2,400 varieties of barbed wire – yes, barbed wire. An unusual object around which to base a whole collection and dedicate a building, one’s first question is – why?

Kansas, in the midwest United States, is the self-professed 'Barbed Wire Capital of the World'; so proud are they of this material and the important role it has played in shaping the region, enabling settlers to cultivate the land and contain their cattle with wire fences in the treeless plains.

Thousands of samples are exhibited like artworks on the walls of the museum. Collectors gather in the area for the annual Barbed Wire Collectors Association meeting, selling and trading barbed wire of varying values.

While elevating the status of a cheap but useful construction tool may initially seem difficult to conceive, the display and treatment of everyday objects as artifacts reminds us of the many objects which have become included into the realms of art and design through history.

The artist Marcel Duchamp, famous for his ‘Readymade’ art works of the early 20th century, took everyday objects, often without making any changes to them, and displayed them in a gallery. The placement of objects in a museum or gallery environment removes their utility and changes how we perceive them.

While barbed wire collections may not feature anytime soon in the sales catalogues of the world’s largest auction houses, by creating a museum of the stuff and a business around its collection, this material, associated with keeping animals in and trespassers out, is transformed into an object with both historical and visual appeal and art-like status.


Follow the link to to read more about the museum.

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