Blog: Object Culture Part X

Christine Alfery

Posted on February 26 2021

Blog: Object Culture  Part X

Featured image: Under Her Motley Umbrella

“The museum field is looking at its mandate and approach in new ways. We are evolving from an object-centric institution to a people-centric institution.” Susan Taylor, director, New Orleans Museum of Art.

In an article in ARTnews February/March 2021 issue, there is a section that I want to repeat verbatim to bring home some of the things I have been saying about object culture and to illustrate how the art arena is rapidly changing because of COVID. To date, I have not read anything that illustrates that they have found a way to increase the income lost during the pandemic. But, I have been reading that not only are major art museums and art galleries approaching the art market from a digital lens, experimenting, and looking for a new way to be “people centric,” but, so are the artists who create the works that used to go into the museums. It is interesting that these two pathways are both the same. One is generated by the museum that depends on the artist, and one is generated by the artist who realizes that they can no longer depend on the museum.

“Diversity collections” may have seemed on the fringe of what museums have always done in the past but they seem to be phasing out for this new digital culture not from the artist but from a marketing standpoint. How strange it is to read these black and white discussions about marketing for museums. They always appeared to think of themselves as the trend setters. Perhaps, it is not the trend setting that the art arena is looking for. Perhaps, it is a return to aesthetic.

ARTnews clip: “One interesting legacy of the pandemic is that we may see some new discussions around what can’t be done to sustain the museum, “ said Szanto.
For most museums, one legacy of the pandemic will be a growing focus on digital experiences. Many institutions already had plans in the works, but Covid-19 accelerated the rollout. The New Orleans Museum of Art, for example, rebuilt its website in one day to focus on newly created virtual tours, curator talks, and more. In April, it generated 7,000 hours of viewing on its YouTube Channel – and it wants to keep growing those numbers to reach wider audiences.
Director Susan Taylor, like others, would like the digital offerings to eventually produce new income to offset losses in fundraising and other areas. Museum directors are dreaming up big ideas ticketed virtual tours through the collection, private Zoom meetings with a curator, live streamed artwork creation – but for now most are keeping their offerings free to remind museumgoers that their beloved institutions are still there.”

For me there is nothing like seeing and touching the “real” thing. All of this reminds me of the movie Clockwork Orange, where realness was encased in a special box and not many experienced it. That movie was scary – in many ways – but seems now to be so real.

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