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.