The Museologist

Museums and Economy: Pompidou Strikes

Posted in General by adevereux on December 4, 2009

Museums around the world, as anyone might guess, have taken at hit from “la crisis” that is our economy.  In Paris, the Pompidou Center and the Musee d’ Orsay have both shut down due to workers’ strikes over proposed museum job cuts.  If two of the must popular museums in the world, in one of the most visited tourist sites on the planet, in one of the least economically affected countries, are having this much trouble, I can only imagine the struggle for other museums around the world to make any profit whatsoever.

I suppose this might be more of a commentary on the tourist industry.  Or maybe it’s pretty obvious – most everyone has cut back on leisure activities, including museum visits (which often have pretty steep admission rates).  For this reason, museums are losing money from the general public, and surely also from private donors.  But the situation raises some bigger questions about where museums stand in the commercial world.

Should museums be free for all the public to view their collections and learn from their exhibits? Or, other than the most highly funded and supported museums which can offer virtually free admission (such as the MET), is this even plausible? Should museums be run like corporations or as non-profits?

From Out That Shadow: Edgar Allen Poe Exhibit

Posted in General by adevereux on December 1, 2009

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin currently has on exhibit items from their Edgar Allen Poe collection.  This exhibit takes more of a lens on history than on artistic interpretation.  Based on my interest in the subjectivity of museums and exhibit display, I am wondering if exhibits of this nature, ie history and literature, are more objective and less subject to personal interpretation than, say, contemporary art.  Or is our interpretation of Poe and his works no less subjective than someone like Frida Kahlo or Picasso?  Is it just as easy project our own meanings on manuscripts, literary texts, and book reviews than it is on a piece of abstract art, or some other less textual work in a museum?

Outside of my own questions, the exhibit at the HRC has received very positive reviews. USA Today recommends it as one of the must-see exhibits to visit before its closing.  Poe has also received attention from the New York Times in honor of his 2009 bicentennial, and this article mentions the Ransom Center’s exhibit.

Why does an exhibit of this nature gain more of an educational and commercial edge than an art exhibit?

http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2009-11-30-museums30_ST_N.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/01/arts/design/01poe.html?_r=1

Documents of Contemporary Art: The Archive

Posted in Texts by adevereux on November 26, 2009

This book is one from a series called Documents of Contemporary Art.  Specifically, it examines the archive, but it goes much further into archive theory than I ever expected the study extended.  I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as “archive theory”; I though archives were simply institutions that held books, manuscripts, and other documents for historical preservation and study.  Apparently, archives signify much more than that.

This book focuses much on the subjectivity of archives and our analysis of documents.  The book pulls texts from scholars including Freud, Foucault, and Richter.  Some of the essays (or sections from essays) are very dense and not easy to follow.  However, they are interesting in respect to museum exhibitions and the question of how we display material.  Who determines the meanings of these objects and documents, and what authority is required to classify artifacts from history?

According to the MIT Press, “In the modern era, the archive—official or personal—has become the most significant means by which historical knowledge and memory are collected, stored, and recovered. The archive has thus emerged as a key site of inquiry in such fields as anthropology, critical theory, history, and, especially, recent art. Traces and testimonies of such events as World War II and ensuing conflicts, the emergence of the postcolonial era, and the fall of communism have each provoked a reconsideration of the authority given the archive—no longer viewed as a neutral, transparent site of record but as a contested subject and medium in itself.”

I think anyone interested or concerned with the authority and subjectivity intrinsic to museum and archival work, as well as the scholarly research that takes place in those institutions, would enjoy reading this book.

Francisco Matto: The Modern and the Mythic

Posted in Curatorial, Exhibitions by adevereux on November 24, 2009

Composition on Black Background, 1958The Blanton Museum at the University of Texas at Austin recently ended their exhibit on painter Francisco Matto of Uruguay.  Overall, I found the exhibition disappointing.  The exhibit text emphasized Matto’s involvement with the school of Joaquín Torres-Garcia and his commitment to live and work in Uruguay, rather than follow his contemporaries to Europe.  However, the objects and the layout of the exhibit did little to illuminate the message of the text panels.  Divided into major themes seen in his work, including geometric forms, landscapes, and cityscapes, the exhibit fails to make an encapsulating, cohesive statement on the works of Francisco Matto.  Especially confusing, if not out of place, was the gallery section of Pre-Columbian artifacts “similar” to those collected by Matto, but not actually his own.  The section felt inauthentic.

Despite this harsh evaluation of the Matto exhibit, his works alone were worth the visit to the museum.  Unfortunately, the exhibit is no longer up.  Nonetheless, I recommend looking up Matto and reading about his life and work.

How do you Exhibit the Bauhaus?

Posted in Exhibitions by adevereux on November 24, 2009

How do you exhibit the Bauhaus?  The MoMA’s new Bauhaus exhibit “Workshops for Modernity,” on display till January 25, 2001, attempts to do just that by dividing the movement into three phases: Weimar, Dessau, and Berlin.  Many paintings by artists who contributed to the period are included in the show: Moholy-Nagy, Schlemmer, Kandinsky, Klee, and Feininger name just a few.

The title of the exhibition, “Workshops for Modernity,” is unspecific.  Does it refer to the Bauhaus’ painterly “canvass” pieces, or their applied art style? The Bauhaus was hugely influenced by new trends and innovations in architecture – how can an exhibition in a museum gallery space teach us about the architectural movement: blueprints? building models? construction photos? or does the exhibit ignore this element of the Bauhaus movement?

Have you been to the exhibit? Thoughts?

Eero Saarinen at the Museum of the City of New York

Posted in General by adevereux on November 23, 2009

The New York times recentely came out with its review of the Eero Saarinen exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.  Having recently met the exhibit’s curator, Donald Albrecht, I was curious to see how the NYT review might reflect on my first impressions of the curator at work.  This didn’t end up happening, as the article has very little say about the design of the exhibit itself.  Nonetheless, this is an interesting article about Eero Saarinen and his work.

Has anyone made it to the exhibit? Not being from New York, I have not been able to visit.  I’d love to read some first-hand reviews and impressions of the show.

Inside the White Cube

Posted in Texts by adevereux on November 23, 2009

This collection of 3 essays was originally published in Art Forum Magazine.  It is a quick read and an excellent intro into the topic of museum studies.  In this book, Brian O’Doherty examines the role and the experience of the museum visitor within the gallery space.  He discusses  traditional display conventions and how the context of the museum space becomes the content, or the message, of the exhibit.  This got me wondering: is there such thing as an objective gallery space? In other words, how much of what we view/read/experience in a museum is dictated by the subjective values of the curator and museum executives?  Is the “white cube” environment supposed to act as a blank slate, a tabula rasa, for the art and artifacts to tell their own story? Or is that idealized white cube itself a highly subjective museum convention?

Welcome to The Museologist

Posted in General by adevereux on November 20, 2009

This blog is dedicated to museum studies and culture.  I welcome ideas and insights from anyone interested in, critical of, or passionate about the topic of museums and what they stand for in society.  Museums have become at once academic and fashionable destinations; I want to create a forum to discuss new themes and trends emerging in in the museum world.

As you can tell, this blog is brand new.  It fits that museology itself is a relatively young field of study.  Please bring any ideas and questions to the forum – the point is to keep the dialogue moving forwards.