Director Thomas P Campbell who took over as Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York 18 months ago speaks out in an interesting interview on how he sees the new landscape of Art and the public’s relationship to it and how he is looking to position the Met to best fit in that world.
The Met has long had a distant relationship with Contemporary Art for half a centurty now almost and Campbell talks about that shifting possibly since Â he feels there is more of an audience for it then before and there is enough context to properly align it with the 5000 years or more of collected art under the Met roof.
Most interestingly Campbell talks aboutÂ ContemporaryÂ Art as being the first step in a “fundamental shift” in the Met’s operation and presentation of displays. The goal in making them more accessible and a less steep knowledgeÂ prerequisiteÂ to even simply engage shows. Saying such things as:
â€œWe assume people know who Rembrandt is, for example. We have wonderful, thoughtful labels next to each Rembrandt painting, but thereâ€™s no overview of who he was and, frankly, considering our international audience, I doubt whether many of them do know who [he] was, or the significance of a particular period room, in a broader context.
â€œWhat Iâ€™m trying to do is to get the museum rethinking the visitor experience from the moment that people arrive at the museum: the signage they encounter, the bits of paper they pick up, all the way through to the way we deliver information in the galleries. And obviously thatâ€™s an enormous task. Weâ€™ve got a million square feet of gallery space and tens of thousands of objects on display, so nothingâ€™s going to change overnight.â€
Thomas Campbell who is not looking to do anything radical with the Met’s conversation and was largely apointed for that reason among others is also someone who sees the writing on the wall a bit it seems when after trying to describe a Titian bacchanal to a Italian teacher at Christie’s to no success with typical termiology shifted gears to saying:
â€œIt is a drunken orgy and they are all having sex!â€
To which the point hit home and Campbell said his lesson from that was:
“Academia at its best embraces and speaks to a broad audience”
It will be interesting to see where he takes the self described â€œinward-looking” culture that permiates the Met currently and many organizations in the Art world.
More can be read here
The Guggenheim as of this past Monday has begun accepting submissions for a video art exhibition in October that will be at all of the foundationâ€™s museums: the Solomon R. Guggenheim in New York, the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.
The catch is they want all submissions via Youtube.
The plan titled “YouTube Play” is planned on being a Â biennial event to discoverÂ innovativeÂ work outside of the contemporary art track. Deadline for submissions is July 31st and will go before the Guggenheim curatorial staff. Submissions will be trimed to 200 from which 20 will be chosen via a jury of diverse disciplines.
The final 20 will then go on simultaneous view at all the Guggenheim museums. The 200 will be promoted on the YouTube Play channel.
All in all this will help bump the visability of Â the Guggenheim, give Youtube some cultural cachet and remotely possible, court the Guggenheim some atypical advertisers which are becoming more and more sought after players.
There is concern from various sections that this type of potpourri art that is only good for a short time and then tossed out, doesn’t build a common voice in the greater art discussion, doesn’t build artists andÂ allowÂ them to grow and doesn’t give institutions any foundation for future work. As much as I am more egalitarianÂ on this subject then many I whole heartedly agree that it’s just junk food.
I agree with the Guggenheim’s response that if this was the only thing they did it would be an issue but it isn’t and honestly this is better then a motorcycle exhibit potentially in the long term.
I still think largely the issue that is the elephant in the room is the general populace is caring less and less and the numbers on multiple fronts reflect that and even pandering doesn’t work.
This Youtube Play is little more then a American Idol, Art/Design Star attempt on a zero budget and maybe something good will come out of it? I am still interested more so to see what MOCA will produce in the months to come. I feel that is the most intelligent and serious test case for this debate in play.
I don’t see institutions solving this problem, nor more focus on curatorial practicesÂ sadly. We are at a back to basics issue in my mind and the first group of banded artists that can properly create remotely unified work that speaks to the general public on a regional level while having some teeth and is smartly marketed will be the spark that can get things rolling again on a mass level.
I almost caught a glimpse of that in 2008 with the election, the general public seemed toÂ rememberÂ the power of the visual image and joyfully get caught up in it. I would love for something other then politics or sex to do that but it’s still interesting.