This past week, Time Magazine announced its annual 100 most influential people of the year. Marina Abramovic was featured as one of the two only visual artists to make the list. There is no question of the impact she has had in the world of performance art and the art world itself. Endurance and authenticity or just two of the many things that makes her work memorable, but Marina has served as one of my biggest inspirations as an artist. Her willingness to use her body as a method to bring awareness and demonstrate ideas of human empathy has inspired me to use my own body in my photography.
Abramovic has opened the Marina Abramovic Institute, which serves as a platform for immaterial art and long durational works, including those of performance art, dance, theater, film, music, opera, science, nature, technology, and undiscovered forms that may develop in the future. When I think more about my feeling of the museum and how it seems that maybe the function of the museum must change to accommodate today’s time, I think about how this institute may work better. The institute allows for its viewers to have more of a leisure experience, yet still providing education on performance art and the possibility for the viewer to feel enlightened. By no means am I saying that there is no need for the museum, but maybe places similar in function to the Marina Abramovic Institute could lead more people into the art world. It sounds similar to the original function of the museum, but maybe a little more hip. Just a thought.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art will be opening a new photography center in 2016. It’s predicted to be the largest photography exhibition space in all of the United States, featuring more than 15,500 square feet of space. As a graduating photography senior, this news is music to my ears. Unfortunately, the chances of me ever showing in a place of that caliber are slim to none. It is quit difficult to pursue a career in photography or any of the arts when you life in photo saturated culture. With the development of the camera phone and numerous websites that provide the general public a place to display their own “art,” it’s easy to loose hope in being a successful working artist.
Graduation is in three weeks, which has me thinking a lot about my future and the role of the museum in my own life. I’m not sure if my work will ever be in a museum, but it is nice to know that there are museums who understand the cultural significance of photography and are creating more space to show that to the general public. After really contemplating on who is my audience, I’ve come to the conclusion that I would like my work to exist outside of the museum/gallery setting. I like to think of my photography as something that really challenges people to question and investigate their own identity. I’m not sure that the museum is the best place to communicate my ideas to everyday people. I feel the museum does not provide everyone access to my work. I want people to be confronted with the message of my images. Maybe I’m just not giving the museum enough credit. Maybe the museum is the best place to reach the general public. I suspect that as time goes on, technology will advance and the way in which art exist and is experience will shift dramatically. The museum will change in its function to something more interactive and technology driven. We will just have to see how this will affect my future.
Recently, the Delaware Art Museum announced that it would be auctioning four works of art to raise about $30 million for repaying debt and replenishing its endowment. Some people have criticized the museum’s decision since it pledged not to sell any donated works, which represents about 90% of its collection. De-accessioning works of art is never an ideal situation, but the Delaware Art Museum has stated they feel it is the best decision and would help set the museum up for the next 100 years. But is de-accession the best or the only alternative for this museum?
There is a recent article on the matter that proposes the idea that museums should be required to defend de-accessioning art before an impartial arbitrator. That got me thinking. Would there be less de-accessioning art if there museum had to argue their case to some sort of authoritative art council or event the artist of the artwork? My guess is ABSOLUTELY! Personally, I feel that there is probably some alternative for The Delaware Art Museum to repay its debts, one that would require outside help and not failing to keep their promise to never sell donated artworks. De-accession could result in the museum loosing some of its credibility, and should be avoided at all costs. If the art director had to defend his/her case, I’m sure there would be better ways to resolve its financial issues. The next question would then be who would decide if a museum were allowed to de-accession artworks? I think the answer to that question is a complicated one, which is why there probably won’t be any kind of governing body to judge this type of decision.
As museums continue to compete with other leisure and recreational facilities, the museum experience may be declining in popularity. Museum staffs are coming up with more innovative and technological ways off getting people into the museum doors. The online virtual tour has made its presence in the museum world, allowing more people to see exclusive famous works of art. Europeana has uploaded a 2-minute video showing its latest technology, the Oculus Rift, which is still being perfected for public usage. An oculus’ head-mounted display is placed on a viewer’s head, allowing them the opportunity to tour a 3D model of the fictional EUseum. Virtual museums would be built, using existing museums as inspiration. Collections of your choice can be created, allowing everyone the chance to curate their own show. All this can be done from the comforts of your home. The device’s projected cost is around $300, which is pretty affordable when you consider the cost of traveling from United States to Europe to see the famous Mona Lisa.
The kid in me jumps with excitement at the thought of fancy futuristic headgear allowing me the chance to travel the world to see amazing artwork, but the artist in me frowns at the idea that people may never see my work or any other artist’s work in public. Although the Oculus Rift would allow people the chance to view artwork they may never have financial been able to see, I fear that people may no longer feel the need to see the work in person. Lines are being blurred in terms of real world experiences and virtual experiences. There would be no reason to see art in person if you could access it anywhere, anytime, especially if there are other more affordable ways to view the work. So how can museums provide access to their collections without relying on technology? Could the Oculus Rift actually save the museum and help get more people interested in the museum experience? Can museums survive in a technology driven society? If so, how does it compete with other recreational institutions?
Personally, I feel that the museum can survive today, but it would inevitably have to compete with other leisure opportunities that technology provides us with. Only time will tell what will become of the Oculus Rift.
Here is a link if you are curious to know more about the Oculus Rift an its function.
Recently, I came across a blog post that brought up some really interesting points about museum accessibility to the public. It raised the question of when do people want to consume the arts? It is almost standard for a museum to open its doors to the public during daytime, some closing as early as 4 p.m. With the average middle-class American working a 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. shift, it is very clear that most people are unavailable during museums’ opening hours. These “20th century hours” obviously affect the museums attendance rate, which could lead into many financial problems. On that note, I can’t help but consider the fact that many museums cannot afford to stay open 24 hours 7days a week. Limiting its opening hours resolves some of the financial burdens museums encounter, like paying a staff for long hours or just the general upkeep of the museum itself and it’s permanent collections.
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say all the museums in the world got together and decided to open their museum during after hours. How would this change the way we experience the museum? Would it change the museums’ audience and attendance rate? Would it affect the way we view the artwork itself? Or would it not affect the museum at all? My guess is that it certainly would change the way we experience art in general and maybe even the way the museum functions, to some degree. I’m not sure I believe that is a bad thing.
One thing is for certain, if a museum desires to increase its attendance rate, then shifting their available hours away from those traditional “20th century hours” would definitely help their chances.
I always had a passion for art as long as I could remember. I would beg my mother to drive me to the local bookstore where I would spend hours lying on the ground in the art section. I would emerge myself in a collection of art history books that had the most photographs of master artworks. I can remember the frustration I had with never being able to see the actual paint strokes of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, having only a small image of his painting to demonstrate his genius. I swore to myself that one-day I would travel to all the museums in the world. It only recently occurred to me that part of the reason I couldn’t see these master works was because they never traveled to see me.
Independent Journalist Judith H. Dobrzynski discusses in Unconventional Partnerships: Let’s Have More the growing number of prestigious museums partnering with smaller less popular ones, allowing famous artworks to travel to communities that would otherwise never have the opportunity to view them. One must consider the political side of sharing artworks with smaller “venues.” The reputation of a curator and the local audience are some of the things a museum must consider when lending out artwork. It doesn’t exactly benefit a more established museum to lend out art to another museum that can’t also share famous works or simply does not have the popularity to attract enough of an audience to see them. Still, I feel these partnerships are important and could really help keep older artist relevant in communities that have no direct connection to their work.
It certainly would have been beneficial for me as a child if I were given more opportunities to have a first hand experience with these iconic artworks with out the hassle of having to travel the world. We need more reputable museums willing to partner with other places that may not have the proper prestige if we hope to reach a broader audience of people. Providing more people with the chance to see more artwork is certainly never a bad thing and is always beneficial.
Recently, I have turned my focus to the educational side of the museum and the role it has played in the American education system. With the exception of those who work within the art field and a few art enthusiasts, most people I have come in contact with have only experienced an art museum through a grade school field trip. They have little interest in the artwork they were brought to see and did not feel particularly more inclined to visit another museum, yet schools continue to insist upon museum fieldtrips.
There is no denying the significance of the museum from an educational standpoint, but why is that we continue to find students uninterested in the museum experience? Countless studies have been created to help establish the value of school field trips to cultural institutions. Researchers in favor of educational reform from the University of Arkansas conducted a rigorous study of various school groups that took a single one-hour guided tour of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. When comparing the students who received the tour against students who did not, the results showed that those who received the guided tour retained more content, increased their critical thinking skills, increased their “historical empathy” for people who lived in different places and times, increased their tolerance for diverse points of view, and increased their interest in visiting museums.
Although I do not find these results the least bit shocking, it does raise some questions about the quality of the experience students may have during their museum visits. The students from the Crystal Bridges report received a docent tour, or guided tour given by an educator who works for the museum. Executive Director Nina Simon of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and author of The Participatory Museum raises some questions in her blog entry Arts Assessment: Let’s Stop “Proving” and Start Improving regarding the outcome of these docent tours. If all of these test subjects received a docent tour, then how do their outcomes differ from school groups who visit but do not have a facilitated experience? For me, this sparks an even bigger question. Should museums put more resources into these docent programs or fewer?
I believe that a docent tour has the ability to provide more of a historical context to the artwork and helps the visitor understand the cultural significance of that work. For this reason, it is a great thing. This is why I believe it essential that museums place even more emphasis on providing its visitors with a guided experience, especially students. One of the problems I have encountered with these tours is that I find them boring and fail to provide me with the opportunity to interact with the works at my own pace. They are often times provided for historical artwork that does not seem relevant today to a student more concerned with their identity on a popular social network. These museum studies are helpful in securing the educational importance of the museum, but doesn’t really provided any possible solutions that could help students become more interested in having another museum experience. We should spend less time assessing the value of the museum experience and spend more time strategizing how we can use docent tours to help educate and promote the museum experience. We need more docents, more ways to connect the historical art works to current times, and more creative methods to keep students interested using modern technology. I feel that we must pursue new approaches to attract a younger audience. Otherwise, people may continue to regard their museum experience as that “one boring field trip I had when I was in school.”
The museum has solidified its position as an institution of authority since the beginning of its existence. It functions as a generator of historical, scientific, and artistic relevance. With its main purpose being to collect and display a collection of historical artifacts and objects of significance, one may question who holds the power to decide what is deemed important. Some may argue that museums identity lies with in the hands of the ruling class. Throughout history, the social elite has continuously commissioned craftsman of all medium to enshrine their culture and preserve their legacy. Those in position did this with the intention that the “artist” would individualize their way of life enough to separate them from the poor and legitimize their superior status. They also begin to collect objects of rarity to demonstrate their access to exclusive things. Craftsmanship, individuality, and rarity are the qualities that the social elite seek when collecting works of art. To obtain or hold possession of anything demonstrates ones power and authority over all who does not. I believe the concept of a museum stems from the ruling class. The invention of the museum, in some ways, may be a result of the aristocracies desires to distinguish themselves from everyone else.
If museums originated with the hope to preserve and share the history and culture of our planet, then the wealthy funds and governs it. It is no secret that those who maintain the collections within the museums have a prestigious education, which is usually a person from a wealthy background. People trust education, resulting in the public trusting the museums decisions on what we deem significant or of quality. If we desire more of a diverse audience for these museums, we must promote local artists that demonstrate craftsmanship and thoughtfulness within their given medium. The museum must do its best to remain current with technology to help customize the viewer’s experience. We must also not deny access to artists who work in a nontraditional way. The museum has a duty to everyone, not just the elite.