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tyler's tear

Post #580 • July 14, 2005, 9:58 AM • 14 Comments

Tyler Green has been going on a tear lately about museums and their directors displaying more financial than curatorial acumen: LACMA, the Gug, MoMA, the Getty, the AIC, the Boston MFA (repeatedly) - and that's just the front page of Modern Art Notes.

I very much want to agree with Tyler, because a lot of this behavior offends my sense of decency. My problem is that when I try to prove him right, I can't come up with anything cogent. Bloggers who understand money better than I do, notably Todd Gibson and Felix Salmon, disagree with him, saying essentially that the continual pressures of financial success force museums to do predictable, perhaps excusable things, and that public and private entities can work together to everyone's benefit. When I try to prove them wrong, I can't come up with anything cogent either. Somebody help me sort through this.

Comment

1.

ahab

July 14, 2005, 11:00 AM

Two "animals": 1) for profit 2) not-for profit.
Different mandates: 1) make money 2) show art.
Similar ostensible effect: 1) show art 2) show art.
Rank in the food chain: 1) condor (elegant scavenger) 2) hornet's nest

And the analogy could go on to prove or disprove the worth or dearth of one or the other as desired. The government has a claw-hold on public institutions because of how much money it bequeaths (in Canada at least - there are other similar if not identical chains around the ankles of American public institutions I presume) . The commercial galleries have their talons embedded in their prey: compliant artists.

I wonder if there is not a third incarnation of the gallery-museum that might serve all of us better than either of the two being contrasted in the blogs noted above. Maybe the artist-run studio-gallery has a chance to bring artist, art, and public together without standing like a behemoth between them.

2.

'museum' or 'director' ?

July 14, 2005, 11:03 AM

Here’s a problem I see: the role of the director and the role of the museum seem to be used interchangeably here, and that should not be the case. I think it’s important to remember that a museum is a collective of individuals who work together; the director is only one player.

If a museum employs good curators and solid educators, and trusts them to do their job well, should the director’s curatorial acumen be weighed more heavily than their financial acumen?

Perhaps we should not attribute the 'face' of the museum solely to its director.....

Also, in museum hierarchy, I believe the director answers to the board of trustees, rather than vice versa. Perhaps more criticism should be directed toward the role trustees play – does money necessarily equal expertise?

3.

Also

July 14, 2005, 11:06 AM

It costs money to show art, unfortunately. especially to do so publically on a large scale.

I understand how the idea of art being a business is disturbing. No one wants to see something they love commercialized or reduced to numbers on a statistics report. However, public institutions are so crucial to our society in my view, and they cannot be maintained without funding and good administrative management. These are the same needs that all non-profit and for-profit institutions require. It’s rare to find individuals who are both creative and can juggle all the details of finances and business administration.

4.

alesh

July 14, 2005, 12:01 PM

MAM's Suzanne Delehanty will be on Arts Beat tomorrow, semi-by the way. I suggested to Ed Bell that he poke around this site for questions to grill her with, but he indicates he is not interested in grilling anyone. Still might be interesting.

5.

jake

July 14, 2005, 12:10 PM

I believe art, in its present state of art for art, is free from having to be placed in a predetermined "venue".

now, to make a partnership with a specific venue, and partake of its advantages, and then complain about the way it was born is "maleducado"

let me restate(heheh), yopu might make paintings for living rooms or you might make them for museums. In the living room, you might think twice about demanding a high cost mlighting system with humidity controls and an armed bodyguard to keep watch. It is a matter of setting. Even changing the furniture around to satisfy the painting seems overdone. This is something that occurs, but with a bit more caution.

in the institution, there is an egotistical air all throughout those involved and connected, that somehow, one could not survive without the other, heirarchically, each disagreeing with which rung they are standing on.

I just think that museums and galleries and similar venues require an investment-not always directly monetary, but somehow an inversion of time and energy(time=money). And this is what the institution does. They dont make art, they make houses for. As an artist, this is something that has to be taken into consideration, not expected to mold to shim.

if responsibility is an issue , then it should be global, not passed on to the next.

and audience is maintained by institutions, the work being incidental rather than causal

and to overstate-the venue doesnt make the art, but if the art needs of the venue to be art, then, is it ...?

point is the venue provides a service with conditions and this is just the way the system works.

to analogize, Most museums charge and entrance fee. The free(admission) day in a museum is the effort of the museum to satisfy the principle of art for all, but must maintain the "charging" days to be able to offer the free day.

6.

oldpro

July 14, 2005, 1:06 PM

I was on the American Assemblies session in 1974 that reconsidered how museums should behave, and wrote one of the essays for the book that issued from it. All the the super-heavies of the museum world were there, in Ditchley Park in England, and we convened and pondered for days in sessions and meetings. I don't recall that much was decided; it seemed more to bring everyone up to date and send them home with a sense of the status quo, which I suppose was useful enough.

Like Franklin, I have always been puzzled about the riight-and-wrong matters, and have had instinctive negative reactions which then on reflection I find hard to justify. As museums have become more democratized and costs have soared the kinds of pressures museums endure have changed, and they have had to do things which offend our sense of them as secular humanist "churches" preserving objects that embody values we cherish.

My general feeling is that as long as they continue to collect and preserve these objects reasonably well they should be allowed to do whatever they want, but this view is somehwat radical, I know, and would not serve every case.

7.

Dan

July 14, 2005, 2:22 PM

oldpro: '74? So old... and a pro to boot. I'm with you on every word you just wrote.

Also: I hope this doesn't run the risk of an 'outing,' because it's worth a skim.

8.

Erik

July 14, 2005, 2:57 PM

Sorry, totally off topic:
A few weeks ago we were talking about John Bailly, and I thought, "boy, I'd love to show is work at my gallery". So, I asked ArtBlog.net readers to give John ashout out... and tell him to show here.
He must have heard you. He signed up to participate in our August 5th show (HOMEGROWN).
So, thanks guys/gals. You rock!

9.

oldpro

July 14, 2005, 3:14 PM

Yeah, Dan, so old I can't even remember where the thing was held. The Ditchley park conference in England was a year later.

Thanks for your comments.

10.

Jack

July 14, 2005, 4:01 PM

Alesh (#4), you must be a bit naive. Nobody's going to grill anybody. Everybody's wonderful; everything is fine; we're all one big, happy family making great strides, and so on and so forth. Franklin, on behalf of the Artblog audience, tried some semblance of grilling MAM before the infamous (certainly to me) Bond Issue #8 business, and got nowhere.

In other words, just as Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove learned to live with, and love, the idea of the nuclear bomb, I suppose we must at least learn to live with our art scene business-as-usual. The artsy equivalent of Martin Luther is nowhere in sight. The movers and shakers see no need for any reformation. They're happy as clams.

11.

Jack

July 14, 2005, 6:07 PM

As for money issues trumping artistic ones...gee, imagine that. Same as for fashion, image, and/or political issues. Art as such, all too often, is mostly a pretext, a means to an end that is not about art per se--that's why it doesn't much matter how good the stuff is, just how well it lends itself to the real goals being pursued, how conveniently it can be manipulated. A lot of it is a game, and far more players are in it to win than to advance the cause of Art. Welcome to reality.

12.

Jack

July 14, 2005, 11:25 PM

museums and their directors displaying more financial than curatorial acumen

My goodness, that sounds SO familiar, so very, very close to home...but wait...it IS home...Uh, did anybody say MAM? Or maybe I just heard Museum Park...or maybe MAM and Museum Park...come to think of it, it must have been "world-class facility"...yeah, that's it...that's the ticket...just get them to cough up a very expensive facility for...what? Oh, never mind about that...we'll find something to put in it...and if we can't fill up the space, there's always Richard Serra.

13.

oldpro

July 15, 2005, 11:25 AM

Alesh, good for you for at least suggesting that some hard questions be asked. But Jack is right, it ain't gonna happen. I don't know who Jack Bell is, but clearly, from your comment, he is, as they say, "part of the problem, not part of the solution".

If art was taken as seriously as business or politics or medicine we would be having shouts of coverup!! and congressional inquiries for fraud.

14.

Elizabeth

July 15, 2005, 12:14 PM

thats why I havent commented ..........its all so pointless.............

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