Sunday, April 25, 2010
But is it art? by Cynthia Freeland
I've returned from a lovely weekend with former classmates at my 40th reunion. It was wonderful in every way and a reminder of how important those developmental years were for each of us.
On Tuesday I'll announce the three lucky winners of the contest to win an autographed copy of Wendy Richmond's excellent book, Art Without Compromise! In the meantime, I'll continue my discussion of Freeland's book.
Diving right into chapter 4, Freeland begins an examination of the evolving role of museums. This interests me a great deal because she asks some probing questions that I hope to discuss throughout this week. Today, I'm interested in Freeland's inquiry into whether present-day museum directors may feel restricted in what kinds of art can and cannot be shown because of the source of funding for these exhibitions.
To be clear, a general shift in museum funding occurred around 1965 away from private philanthropists to corporations who were interested in promoting culture and the arts. According to Freeland: the earliest corporations to provide major funding to museums were tobacco and oil companies, which likely sought to polish tarnished imaged by supporting "culture." The shift to corporate sources coincides with the rise of the "blockbuster" exhibition where funders expect a lot of bang for their buck.
These exhibitions include the Treasures of Tutankahmen, Pompeii, and Jewelsof the Romanovs which, according to this author, were intended to appeal to the largest number of the public and middle-class taste (whatever that is!).
So, my question is whether or not these corporate-backed exhibitions induce a form of self-censorship in museums who need them to remain commercially viable. And, if so, does the public suffer as a result?