Oh, how sweet to see other critics picking up themes related to those I have been harping on mostly on my own. Consider this, about the recently proposed new Museum of Modern Art*:
MoMA and Diller Scofidio hoped to sweeten the pill by promising improvements to the museum’s lobby and opening its sculpture garden to the public free during museum hours. They also propose, in place of the razed building, a Gray Box for performances, above an Art Bay, with a retractable glass wall and spaces for yet-to-be-conceived presentations, visible from the street….[It's] a lot like the one Diller Scofidio has proposed for the Culture Shed, a glossy event and exhibition center without portfolio… [and meanwhile, across the street from MoMA, the] Donnell Library Center, a long-shuttered branch of the New York Public Library, is scheduled to reopen late next year …at a third of its former size, with wide bleacher seating and steps as the main feature. “More like a cultural space, which is about gathering people, giving people the opportunity to encounter each other,” is how the library’s architect, Enrique Norten, describes the plan.
It’s all the same flimflam: flexible spaces to accommodate to-be-named programming, the logic of real estate developers hiding behind the magical thinking of those who claim cultural foresight. It almost never works.
Boldface mine (exuberantly). That was from today’s New York Times, by architecture critic Michael Kimmelman.
Here are two related quotes of mine (but regular readers of this blog will know there have been many more here):
Many young directors see museums as modern-day “town squares,” social places where members of the community may gather, drawn by art, perhaps, for conversation or music or whatever. They believe that future museum-goers won’t be satisfied by simply looking at art, but rather prefer to participate in it or interact with it… (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 24, 2010.)
Glenn D. Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art, has seen the future. In a speech he gave a while back in Australia, he noted that museums had to make a “shift away from passive experiences to interactive or participatory experiences, from art that is hanging on the wall to art that invites people to become part of it.” And, he said, art museums had to shed the idea of being a repository and become social spaces….
This is all in the name of participation and experience — also called visitor engagement — but it changes the very nature of museums, and the expectations of visitors. It changes who will go to museums and for what….(New York Times, Aug. 11. 2013).
And — as Kimmelman says — it will not work, not if MoMA wants to be a respected museum. But maybe it just wants to be hip.
Photo credit: Courtesy of MoMA
*I consult to a foundation that supports MoMA.