When’s the last time you loved your museum?

Posted: January 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on When’s the last time you loved your museum?

One of the things I love best about living in my neighborhood is how close I am to the “arts district” here. Once a month for years I would roam in and out of every gallery and see the new works. Some I absolutely loved, a lot I was indifferent to, but the newness of it, the chance to see a new expression is what always kept me coming back.

Conversely, while I love the Phoenix Art Museum for what it tries to be, it’s more metaphor than brick-and-mortar to me. Hell, it looks like a citadel of art on the corner of a major intersection that I pass by twice a day during my commute. In my adult life I’ve been to the museum a half-dozen times, but haven’t gone to a show there in years.

Why? Because the shows they stage look better on a banner than they do inside. Not to say they are curated poorly, just that the formula of finding a big name (or semi-big name) artist to show, then hoisting their work up and expecting us to come stare at it like a bunch of yokels, isn’t working out as way of engaging me.

And it’s not just our museum. During my trips abroad this year, I’ve loved the opportunity to see world-class art up close at the V&A Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, and almost the Louvre (who closes on Tuesdays? seriously!) Some of these places knocked my f***ing socks off. All of them were great to see once, some of them I could see myself wanting to go back several times. But if I put myself in the place of a regular citizen, how often would I really enjoy them as a public resource?

With anything that represents age and establishment and order, the opportunity to grow stale and remain rigid is always present. Even with art, the subject that’s supposed to make us stay our most human, we find ourselves mired in governing boards, big named sponsors, and outdated standards.

Today I came across an opinion piece by one of my art-world heroes, Marc Schiller:

“For us, it has more to do with the fact that as time goes on, more and more of our museums fail to live up to the ideals that we have for them. We want, and expect, museums to defend our free speech. We want, and expect, museums to provide a home for provocative thought. We want, and expect, museums to provoke and inspire debate. What we should not want is for museums to be so constrained and commercial that they add very little to the public debate.”

(full piece here)

I do not have a problem with the concept of only accepting classics, or works that will persevere, but at the same time, I can tell you I’ve gone into a museum 20x more often than any of my friends, and I’ve gone into a gallery 100x more often than I’ve gone into a museum. So what’s that say about everyone else.

Let’s not allow art to turn into Nascar.

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