Friday, October 09, 2015

If I ran the Art Institute

The upcoming retirement of the museum's current director has got me thinking about how it might be run  differently.

Here is my discussion of that Director when he first took office four years ago  As he said in an interview at the beginning of his term:

 I want to strategically grow our collections. Collection growth is terribly important, and I'm speaking now with the curators. Maybe now is the time to ask, "Are we thinking strategically enough about acquisitions? Should we be trying to make some of the more transformative types of acquisitions as we've made recently, like with the (Kazimir) Malevich and the (Robert) Rauschenberg?

Here is my discussion of that acquisition; while here is my discussion of the pieces  sold to raise cash to buy it.

He would probably consider the subsequent acquisition of the $400 million  Edlis-Neeson collection as  the highlight of his career, but I would call it an even worse disaster.  It commits significant museum wall space for the next 50 years to specific pieces of Post-Modern art, a genre that would appear to deny the significance of anything for longer than 15 minutes.

I would prefer that art museums went in precisely the opposite direction:   emphasizing temporary or rotational display over permanent  installation; and allowing a wider variety of genres to be displayed as contemporary.

But I've also read that museum leadership is talking about adding yet another building for additional galleries of contemporary and Asian art.  Hopefully that will take their East-Asian displays beyond Japan, and expand the contemporary displays to include work that is lyrical and maybe even beautiful.

Would it be too shocking for the museum to display a contemporary landscape that applies rather than deconstructs the tradition?

The search for a new director has begun, and the Tribune reports that the board is looking for another professional scholar.  But as with the current director,  what interests a scholar is not necessarily what looks very good.   Scholarship looks for  intellectual context, but I want museum directors who just want to look at art - the kind that demands endless viewing. 

Scholars should not run art museums any more than they should run opera companies.


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