June 28, 2012

The super-sizing of American art museums

In the NYTimes Robin Pogrebin writes about the problem with museum expansion, a topic I covered in "The Super-Sizing of American Art Museums," an article published in The American Prospect in 2007. Unfortunately, the problems I anticipated five years ago during the museum expansion boom have arrived. Here's an excerpt from my piece:

American art museums are experiencing an unprecedented growth spurt, from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento to smaller museums elsewhere. Museum directors argue that the expansions will better serve the public's need for more exhibition space and modern amenities. Less altruistically, they maintain job security by ramping up fundraising and construction requirements, and gild their résumés with impressive credentials. Art collectors queue up to donate money for stylish wings that will bear their names. Cities herald the projects as cornerstones for mammoth downtown development and revitalization projects. The media provide the fanfare, lavishly covering the initial announcements, building progress, and grand openings.
But all this capital investment in high-profile architecture and fattened collections and programming -- this super-sizing of museums -- does not necessarily reward the art-viewing public. Museum directors and curators need to consider expansion plans more critically. Often such plans result in oversized, over-designed new structures.... 
With higher maintenance and staffing costs for bigger buildings, funding shortfalls can end up making an expanded art museum less economically viable and imperil its position in the community. Some museums, like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, have been forced to sell artwork from the permanent collection when fundraising efforts for new initiatives have fallen short of projected targets.... 
Read more
 Art Institute of Chicago (via)

  Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento (via)


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