The Role Of Museums missed lecture Madison Dye

Madison Dye, Missed Lecture: The Role of Museums, March 6 makeup

In class on March 6 we discussed the role of museums, how they display art, and their role in institutional critique. Historically, museums have been charged with collecting and preserving important artifacts, educating the public about a vast variety of topics, and furthering research on these topics. Museums began in the 16th century with private “Cabinets of Curiosities,” private collections filled with specimens and artifacts. Art has not always been accessible to everyone, or even most people, and since it was extremely expensive to commission or purchase art, it was typically reserved only for very wealthy upper middle class people. This changes in 1793 with the opening of the Louvre in Paris which is the first truly public  museum, although admission was still probably fairly limited. One issue that museums have had to deal with in the past is the very serious offense of looting. in war, destroying a culture and taking some of their most precious artifacts is one of the ways for the enemy to enjoy the ultimate victory.

This class also looked at how museums display and present art today, and the shifting roles curators play in how we recieve and experience the art. The most typical way is through an “enfilade” of galleries that display works organized chronologically by schools. MoMA was a big participator in this style and laid out the history or art from room to room as a linear, chronological trail, which left little freedom of choice for visitors. Centre Pompidou in Paris completely altered this concept and created open, more flexible spaces for different exhibitions. This style gives the visitors a much less rigid experience, and allows them to essentially “curate” their own experience by allowing them to make their own personal connections between the pieces. My personal favorite museum, the Tate Modern Museum in London took the evolution of exhibit organization one step further, and grouped artworks based on subject matter, rather than grouping chronologically by school or movement. The subjects of the groupings at the Tate include a section on the nude form and human actions, while another displays a group connected through subjects of history, memore and society. For me personally, this is the best way to exhibit art because the same subject can be compared across various styles and movements, which really allows the viewers to experience the differences and evolutions of style for themselves.

We also looked into the museums themselves taking on the role of the art, rather than just a storage place for it. This is most famously attributed to with the “Guggenheim Effect,” where museums become the object of attraction for tourists who have flocked there to see the museum itself rather than the art inside. Another aesthetically interesting museum that draws a lot of attention is Calatrava’s Milwaukee Art Museum. This museum takes it one step further and the design is clearly inspired by a hybrid of a bird and a yacht, which is appropriate because the museum is located on the shore of Lake Michigan. Although the role of museums is slowly changing, their cultural relevance and influence on the art world is only growing.

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