Monday, April 26, 2010
Museums and the Artist
But is it art? by Cynthia Freeland
In chapter 4 of her book, Freeland takes a look at museums, markets, and money. I mentioned yesterday that she raises a number of interesting questions about this topic, and I'll use this post to ponder one of my own that is related.
Freeland explains the different categories of museums and their missions. Some are dedicated to collecting and preserving a particular genre of art or art by one particular artist or group of artists. Other art museums are less specific, but they all have in common a mission to collect, preserve, educate, and facilitate scholarship. This is a weighty mission, to be sure.
After considering the influences of corporate sponsors upon museums yesterday, I began to think about what all this means to individual artists, like us! For instance, if the general public acquires a taste for blockbuster exhibits that hyper-stimulate the senses, how will this impact the small voice of the individual artist? Will we be heard, and do we fit? How will all this change art and how will artists respond?
I ask this because I have a dear artist friend whose goal it is to have her work hang in a museum one day. I've never had this ambition, so it's not something I can relate to. But, I now wonder if that goal is a thing of the past - if museums have become something other than the highest goal an artist can achieve.
But, what if you want your work to hang in a museum? How would you go about it? I've read lots of advice about this topic in the art magazines that I normally purchase and the formula seems to be: gallery director + curator + museum board = museum hangs your work. So, you'd have to begin by establishing a relationship with a gallery director who has a strong connection to one or more museum curators. That director's reputation is on the line every time he/she makes a recommendation to the curator and, the curator's reputation is on the line every time he/she makes a recommendation to the museum board. So, these folks are cautious and select artists who have proven track record, and not just on the art work itself.
I can't resist comparing exposure on the world wide web to exposure in a museum. According to Freeland: art museums are still seen as elitist institutions. Across Europe and North America, attendance averages no more than 22 per cent of the population, and this group is skewed towards higher income brackets and educational backgrounds. Don't get me wrong, I love museums and it would be an honor to have my work in one. I just wonder if the role of museums in society, and in the art world, is changing.
What do you think?