The ousted Met director Thomas Campbell does a loaded two part interview, mostly on the Met. First off, all major US museums and many around the world take their cues from the Met and I wonder what chilling effect on digital departments this ouster will have? I’m rather certain that “Tapestry” Tom’s ouster had nothing to due with finances or his digital initiatives and everything to do with the culture of the board and key staff. Blaming “digital” is like blaming Hilary’s emails and the finances are suddenly fine after the booting (something we reported all along and much of the less savvy generalist media bought hook line and sinker). Those are smokescreens. The real issue is that the digital didn’t have a deep culture within the board and the distrustful and “stressed” staff fed that fire. Overall, I welcome the Met being a player in more recent contemporary and less recent Modern Art but the problem with all these initiatives is they were separate strategies. Thing is most museums dont have a feel for new tech/art and by giving it a new division missed the point. Tech isnt something new, the entire collection of the Met is a catalogue of once new art/technologies and their effects. Specifically, tech should be an overlay that expands each division rather than be seen as a rival for the affections of funding. Most contemporary art curators at museums are relative luddites when it comes to tech too (and they wonder why tech billionaires avoid the art world). There is more to all this of course, but the Met needs to play culture cards like the house (most major museums should) because that is what they are. Lag along, its fine as long as you seem more dignified and adult. Problem was the Met looked like it was buying a Miata or three for its mid-life crisis (especially with that logo redesign) and the staff revolted. Thing is, major museums are in a precarious time and the Met like many is making the mistake of chasing the parade of relevancy. Part of the problem is a lack of curatorial verve and prescience, which comes from boards that aren’t being asked to step up in visionary ways by curatorial programs (for a while the best curators are avoiding major “collecting” museums, hence Robert Storr, Paul Schimmel and Okwui Enwezor). Leadership means temerity and I haven’t been seeing the same caliber of it most major museums as of late. Was it a situation of directorial oversteer? Probably… better to leave that to curators and have the director look stately and reassuring. Who does things well then?… most cities that are not New York should look at the Des Moines Art Center, whose Director Jeff Fleming PORT interviewed years ago. For example, the Met or any museum with over a billion dollar endowment should be open free of charge… or at least be so once a week.
Jerry Saltz thinks the new Kara Walker show is the best work about America this century. Perhaps, but that is a pretty low bar. Can US citizens really explore America that well?… isn’t it dreaming immigrants who do that best? As a second gen American I just want to float that out there.. The American experience has always been best described by new immigrants.
How are Houston artists coping with the hurricane Harvey aftermath? Former Portlander (and much missed) Paul Middendorf is director/founder of Gallery Homeland down there and has been been working rescue operations.
Brian Libby writes a sad but wonderful piece about the Gorge on fire. It will be changed but I bet a great deal of wonder will remain… remember the biggest trees are designed to survive these fires. Still, I am deeply saddened about this blaze.
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