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Send your e-mail to mclennan@artsjournal.com




FROM: Michelle Gotari, Los Angeles

The problem with museums chasing after large crowds with blockbuster shows isn't that museums want to be popular. It's that we in the US have narrowed our definition of success to be the point that popularity is the overwhelming measure of success.

How many arts economic impact studies have been produced in the past ten years? One can understand the reason for them - if Congress is cutting arts funding amid charges the arts are too elitist, then let's prove we're not. Rather than just saying we're not, let's speak the language of business, the language of politicians. Don't speak of aesthetic value - instead back it up with numbers that tell of economic benefits.

In this scenario is it any wonder that arts institutions then place greater emphasis on the bottom line? But it's not just a financial bottom line either - show me you're doing a show that speaks to common values, that reaches the everyday guy and I'm more likely to fund you.

Does it spell the death of civilization as we know it? Hardly. Nor are the small serious shows likely to vanish. There's a place for both - and, maybe the one can help the other. The management of any regional theatre or orchestra in the country can speak to the need of producing a balanced menu.

To expect this balance to range across multiple institutions is a bit much though. Even in a highly socialized state like France, such a system is a moderated success. Better to let museums find their own places in line.


A Cure For Blockbusteritis: If museums get tangled up in themselves chasing the next blockbuster show, maybe a New World Order for museums is called for. Maybe something French perhaps?

Blockbuster-itis: Museums are more and more obsessed by the blockbuster show, the need to program "event" exhibitions designed to pull in the crowds and prove success. It's long been debated whether such shows serve art. But do they even serve the institutions themselves? By Jack Miles & Douglas McLennan