This interview with Philippe de Montebello is fascinating regarding the future of the Met. In many ways mission creep has pushed museums beyond their core competency. Is the Met really in trouble? uh no. Is there a crisis? All institutions need crisis to remain relevant and the question with the Met is interesting. My thought is the Met needs to do contemporary art at the same level it does any other kind of Art. Can it do that? The core competency for any museum is to play to their strengths by testing that strength. A digital initiative sounds great but if it isnt as enlightened as their Egyptian program it becomes a distraction. Once again mission creep can diffuse crisis in core competencies but that can undermine that core. New programs work better to bring a crisi of understanding to the museum’s collection and programs. Today museums seem to have lost their way, always chasing the parade. No, play like the house… because the museum is the house. An intellectually rather than fashionably engaged crisis is all that is needed. Sadly, the contemporary art world isnt producing curators like that… or they arent ending up at museums anymore. Great curators like Robert Storr and Paul Schimmel are no longer at museums… that’s a bad kind of crisis. (yes I like to point out that the Greek word Krisis is the root of the word criticism. For those who like to say there is a “crisis in criticism”… you are being intellectually redundant. Crisis and Criticism have the same linguistic origin. In conclusion, all great curatorial programs and museums use crisis of understanding to spur critical thinking about what they present. Simply having a program that chases its trending demographics will fail to capture them. For example Gen X and Milennials are disengaging from museums, partially because museums are acting as if they are too big to fail. The museums are failing to understand their own crisis. *Hint, great curators who bring the tensions of the present to what is presented are great communicators… they dont do what most contemporary art curators are doing now, which is extremely defensive. So many are failing and not in a good way.
While on the subject of crisis in contemporary art, here is a fascinating article where the strongest work tends to misread its predecessors to create room for itself. A strategy called “Misprision” where mere imitation is just a form of “cultural suicide” or at least death by thousand cuts from hedging… i.e. hiding in the cultural hedges. Simply doing research and evoking history and its forms isn’t quite enough.
Converge 45 starts today. Frankly many were not impressed with last years trial run talkfest that in retrospect looks incredibly dated after the presidential election (the whole war on expertise rhetoric that is still the darling of liberal elites just is not intellectually responsible, can we have radical ideas rather than that???). We will see how they do this year? There is bound to be a few worthwhile things and at least there is a Jennifer Steinkamp show this year.
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