Arts Journal Home Page
PublishingTheatreVisual ArtsArts IssuesPeople

common threadsarts watchletters

Arts BeatSearchContact Us

News Service Home`Services
Digest Samples
Headline Samples







ART AS SHOW BIZ: "Artists agree that they are no longer content to be recognized only by their peers and a small circle of critics, curators, collectors and dealers; rather, they want to participate in a larger cultural arena. Looking at art is no longer a private elite event. It has a huge public audience. After all, the Phillips Collection is going to Las Vegas! The audience for modern art has multiplied, and people like spectacle. Art has become part of popular entertainment." The New York Times 02/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

FEWER PEOPLE ARE ACTUALLY LOOKING: Enormous crowds at Tate Modern and the Royal Academy’s "Apocalypse" show have supposedly signaled a new level of public interest in art - but have they? London attendance records actually show numbers are down for many other solid, well-curated exhibits. "Could the over-promotion of selective versions of contemporary art be channelling the interest people have for it in ways from which it will never escape, and creating a new category of sold experience where only quality should count?" The Independent 1/09/01
WHAT PRICE SUCCESS? John Walsh has been checking out other museums since he stepped down as director of the Getty in September. "I keep thinking, what price success? Museums are drawing huge audiences, but to what? To dazzling new buildings or renovated ones, very often, or to ballyhooed exhibitions of overexposed art (even things with a dubious place in art museums like motorcycles and guitars). In settings like that, looking at works of art is becoming a point-and-click sort of thing. There's a crowd flowing around you, noise . . . glance, move on." Los Angeles Times 12/28/00
WHAT MUSEUMS SHOULD BE? "If the first current idea informing much cultural planning is a version of technological determinism, then the second is a belief in the increasing convergence of commerce and culture. In this version of futurology, shops are becoming more like museums - places for visual and aesthetic display - while museums are becoming more like shops." The Telegraph (London) 12/16/00
POPULARITY KILLED THE MUSEUM? "Are museums going to hell in a touring exhibition of hand baskets? Is buzz a thing to be feared in a place of high culture?" Directors of Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and the Harvard Museums debate buzz and bang-for-the-buck. Boston Herald 12/15/00
BIGGER IS BETTER? "Nowadays, museums build bigger buildings and erect huge impersonal additions to house uneven collections. Trustees, millionaires and board members pick architects; they help lay out loading docks. Museums are becoming architectural attractions in and of themselves. But is bigger better? Is more more?" 12/08/00
THREE-RING MUSEUM: "Considering the Guggenheim’s latest proposal, to appropriate a sizable portion of lower Manhattan for the purpose of creating a mammoth fun-and-games cultural emporium: The Guggenheim Museum is itself no longer a serious art institution. It has no aesthetic standards and no aesthetic agenda. It has completely sold out to a mass-market mentality that regards the museum’s own art collection as an asset to be exploited for commercial purposes." New York Observer 12/06/00
SCHOLARSHIP TAKES A BACK SEAT: The British Museum’s redesign is certain to drive up attendance and draw viewers who care more about the architecture than the collection. "A more fundamental question, however, is how much the museum's rush to modernize itself will threaten its scholarly mission." New York Times 12/06/00 (one-time registration required for access)
WHAT MUSEUMS WANT: What exactly do museums want today? New York's fall schedule of shows at major museums is perplexing. "The lineup of fall shows suggests that museum professionals, driven by the desire to be financially secure, wildly popular or socially relevant, opt for one of two alternatives: exhibitions that look like upscale stores, or exhibitions that look like historical society displays." New York Times 12/03/00 (one-time registration required for access)
WHAT HAPPENS IF NOBODY WANTS THE JOB? Before London's Victoria & Albert Museum selected its new director last week, headhunters had offered the job to several international candidates, but had been turned down. "It is known they encouraged quite a number of people to apply from all over the world. It subtly undermines the candidature in the end." The Independent (London) 02/11/01
  • JONESING FOR THE V&A: Many believe that the Victoria & Albert Museum needs a charismatic figure to pull it out of a prolonged slump. But Mark Jones, named last week as new director, "is seen as a subtle networker, a scholarly figure, adept at behind-the-scenes politicking but unlikely to stamp his personality on the V&A in a radical shake-up. Yet that is exactly what some critics claim is needed to save the 149-year-old museum from dwindling attendances and a nightmarishly bureaucratic way of working." The Guardian (London) 02/13/01
  • THE TASK OF REINVENTION: Mark Jones, director of the National Museums of Scotland, was appointed Monday to head London’s Victoria & Albert - a museum with flagging admissions, a stalled £80 million redesign, and an obvious need for artistic leadership. "His next task is to polish this Victorian jewel and make it appeal to the modern eye. A museum cannot ossify and be left to decay. It has to reinvent itself." The Herald (Glasgow) 2/07/01
BRITISH MUSEUM MIGHT CHARGE: The British Museum has warned the government it might start charging admission for the first time in its history if the museum doesn't get some help with a large VAT tax bill. London Evening Standard 02/08/01
THE MODERN MUSEUM...ER, FUN HOUSE: Time was when art museums were temples of decorum, staid, stately and places in which to be contemplative. "But the “blockbuster” mentality that began developing in the 1960s helped to transform many art museums into all-purpose cultural emporia. Increasingly, success is measured by quantity, not quality, by the take at the box office rather than at the bar of aesthetic discrimination." New Criterion 02/01
BASQUE BOOST: The Bilbao Guggenheim has transformed Bilbao since it opened three years ago. The museum has had 3,625,000 visitors to the museum since October 1997, while 5,000 jobs were created and $600 million’s worth of economic activity was generated." The Art Newspaper 02/02/01
SPENDING THAT MERGER MONEY: Two America Online executives have pledged $30 million to the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., a record donation for the 132-year-old museum. The money virtually assures construction of the Corcoran's new Frank Gehry-designed addition, expected to cost $120 million. Washington Post 02/05/01
MAJOR COLLABORATION: The Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna and the Guggenheim Foundation have announced a collaboration that seems to go beyond what museums have done so far. The accord would involve exchanges of exhibitions, curators and know-how. The Art Newspaper 01/26/01
WORLD DOMINATION? "The response of the guardians of the American museum world is to cry "McGuggenheim!", and claim that Thomas Krens, the management-trained director of the New York Guggenheim, is rolling out the brand. The tie-up with the Hermitage and Kunsthistorisches are just part of a wider strategy for what looks increasingly like a bid by Krens for world domination." The Guardian 01/27/01
FUROR OVER FREE MUSEUMS: So British museums are to be free again? "In the 1980s, when museum charges were encouraged by the government of the day as part of a market-driven economy, museums and their collections were regarded as commodities. And the result? Those institutions that went down the charging route saw their visitor numbers plummet on average by a third. This approach failed to take account of the unique importance of museums: they are a crucial part of the fabric of the individual and of society, and everyone should have free access to them." The Guardian (London) 01/27/01
TOO FAMOUS FOR ITS OWN (AND OTHERS) GOOD: The "Mona Lisa" is being moved to a room of its own at the Louvre due to the mobs that crowd its current spot, which shows the painting in context among other works of the Italian High Renaissance. The Louvre has had to admit that there are limits to this approach and to place bullet-proof glass over the painting; and now it has ruefully accepted another failure that comes from celebrity, and it is removing the work to a raucous room of its own." The Independent (London) 1/26/01
DOUBLE TROUBLE: London's Royal Academy is going to double in size, taking over an adjacent building. But a plan to move the Academy's students to new quarters is being panned by the students. Why do the artists like their present ramshackle digs, through which many famous artists have passed? “They boast the most perfect light in which to work." The Times (London) 01/26/01
PORTRAIT OF THE COMMUTER AS AN ARTWORK:  Billboards have sprung up in Los Angeles declaring stretches of clogged freeways and cookie-cutter retail stores to be works of living art. The oversized labels are part of a promotional campaign by L.A.'s Museum of Contemporary Art. Desperate? Maybe. Lowbrow posing as highbrow? Perhaps. But people are talking about it. L.A. Weekly 1/24/01
THE POPULAR SMITHSONIAN: A record 3.1 million people visited the museums of the Smithsonian last year, a 9 percent increase over 1999, when 28.6 million people visited. The heavy traffic flow reflects a strong tourism economy, not to mention some popular Smithsonian exhibits, such as the Salvador Dali show at the Hirshhorn last spring and the Vikings display at the Museum of Natural History. Washington Post 01/23/01
ART CRISIS IN AUSTRALIA? Eighteen major Australian visual arts organizations met in Sydney for emergency talks on the state of the visual arts sector in Australia. "Cash-strapped state galleries are being forced to stage more 'blockbuster' exhibitions at the expense of Australian content and curatorial quality, while contemporary art spaces were also suffering as a result of static funding. Art colleges were closing courses or cancelling subjects because of funding cuts, which in turn affected the number of teaching jobs available for artists." The Age (Melbourne) 01/23/01
WE'RE AWARE WE'RE HERE: The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art has hired giant ad agency TWBA\Chiat\Day, the firm responsible for Absolut Vodka’s art-friendly ads, the Energizer Bunny, Apple’s “Think Different” campaign and “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” to create an "awareness campaign" for the museum. "Over the next month or so, and continuing through June, MOCA’s 2001 Brand Awareness Campaign will position 60 site-specific labels as billboards throughout the city. LA Weekly 01/18/01
PANDERING? "Art museums these days are pandering to the lowest common denominator, confusing popular junk with high art, and failing their mission to set standards and educate the public. Or they're throwing over outdated and elitist concepts about art, making it fun, bringing more people into museums, and teaching them to see beauty in everyday objects. Either the barbarians are at the gate, or they're already in, and, hey, they're not barbarians." USA Today 01/05/01
THE NEW MUSEUM: The Guggenheim's Thomas Krens on criticisms of the museum's Armani show: "We’ve expanded the concept of what a museum/gallery is. You have to be flexible today. I see a museum as a research and education institution, as well as a theme park - I say theme park not in a pejorative manner. People come here for a visceral experience. I’m involved with objects of material culture - that’s about everything. So then you choose a hierarchy. "We look at the high practitioners in the field of material culture, be it motorbikes, paintings or clothes. Clothes and motorbikes have not got a frame around them but they reflect the aspirations of culture in an age of globalisation." The Scotsman 01/08/01
THE ART OF SELLING ART: "Art galleries often appear to be nothing more than underutilized museums, but their real purpose is to sell art. Compared with other retailers, they are spectacularly bad at what they do. Most people don't go to galleries, and thanks to the snobbery and traditionalism of some dealers, artists cannot effectively connect with the vast American public and its equally vast purchasing power. Art galleries sell art in the way that fancy stores sell luxury goods: they use high prices to suggest scarcity, quality and prestige." New York Times 01/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)
FASHIONABLE ART: The Guggenheim's show on Armani fashion is indicative of a shift in perception of fashion as art. The show "is a perfect example of the blend of fashion, art, commerce and academic analysis that marks the current cultural scene. How we dress now is a subject that engages semioticians, social historians, political analysts and gender theorists - 'fashion civilians', in the words of Colette's biographer Judith Thurman - as well as superstar designers, magazine editors, high-spending celebrities, and chic purveyors and curators of front-line style." London Review of Books 01/14/01
SPILLOVER POPULARITY? London's new museums have been such a hit with audiences that elsewhere in England museums with construction projects are busy revising upwards their attendance projections. The Guardian (London) 01/04/01
CYNICAL BLOCKBUSTERS: "The art exhibition has become one of our favourite treats. Orgies of hype and merchandising, blockbuster shows are the cultural equivalent of a royal wedding or the World Cup - spectacles that make us feel part of a community of chat, deciding that yes, we really do all feel that late Monet is as fascinating if not more so than the Monet of the 1870s. Last year hardly a week went by without the opening of some absolutely unmissable show, and this year the procession rolls on, genuflecting before one modern or ancient master after another." The Guardian (London) 01/01/01
SO WHAT CONSTITUTES ART? The Los Angeles County Museum's show on California has been faulted for emphasizing history and pop culture as much as art. "Museums, like other institutions, are trying to make things relevant. The show cuts a broad path through the cultural landscape, touching on everything from surfboards to WWII Japanese internment camps, as well as the varying manifestations of spirituality. "It's all been a part of the growing democratization of the arts. Today you can say a word like 'multicultural' and people recognize it; you don't have to explain it anymore." Christian Science Monitor 12/29/00
A LITTLE SHOW BIZ IN BROOKLYN: The Brooklyn Museum had a reputation for its rich collection and stodgy ways. Then three years ago Arnold Lehman arrived as director and brought some show business to the place (including last year's "Sensation" show). "Mr. Lehman makes no apologies for his populist approach, saying that if the choice arose, he would have no trouble favoring a broader audience over deeper scholarly research, while bearing in mind that the mission of the museum is always about art." New York Times 01/01/01 (one-time registration required for access)
THE NORTON SIMON WAKES UP: "Long known as a sleepy, essentially private enclave and only open four afternoons a week, the Simon has been transformed during the past year, since the grand opening of a celebrated $6.5-million renovation designed by architect Frank O. Gehry. Officials have extended its hours, expanded its outreach and upped its advertising budget. The payoff has been dramatic." Los Angeles Times 12/03/00





Click Here!