Monday, July 9, 2012

Museum Moneyball


When I read opinion articles I honestly do try to read both sides of the argument. I won't always agree with one side, but usually I make the attempt. I do this from the counsel of Sun Tzu who stated, "If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles." So it is good to know the thinking of those you disagree with. With this in mind every now and then an article comes along which goes beyond the effect of making me angry and I just have to roll my eyes back and laugh with an occasional sneer of contempt.

Listening to NPR or reading The Daily Beast usually accomplishes this quite well. So what I have today is an article from The Daily Beast concerning a trend in museums to make the attempt to level out their budgets. The article was the snippy, highly comedic, liberal response to this trend. The author of the piece, Blake Gopnik, was in a real snit over this. The flashpoint which he noted was the changing of the guard at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. He basically likened this trend into turning The Met into your local Burger King or the Nazi takeover over of the Wiemar Republic. He laments the move away from typical Ivory Tower views on art. By that I mean the real art snob views where art is on majestic left-wing pedestals where there is only 'their vision of what is art and what it is not'. Which honestly is pretty funny with all the utter crap they hold up and call art.

Now, I do agree with him to a point. I would not want all museums to fall prey to pop-trend, movie-hype, meme of the day filler just to get the turnstiles moving. Museum endowments are whiddling away and something has to change. I think that spicing up the museums palettes a bit to generate interest is fine. The mood will not be corrupted. No matter how much Blake hyper-ventilates over this trend the museum model will never equate to a get rich quick for-profit model. I akin this change of becoming less 'insular' and 'going downstream' to having the Boston Pops having a night where they play tasteful sci-fi themes. Whatever happens in the museum is still going to be classy. What truly brings people to museums will never change.

You have the choice of watching museums shut down or modifying their business model a bit. Personally, I wouldn't mind some of the leftist art snobs kicked out. (And yes, I'm sorry this a left wing / right wing issue. Art was taken out of the center and placed squarely in the domain of the left).

At the end of the article Blake has the gall to say that while, yes, it was the industrialists who built the great museums of the past age - they were just showing that they were human. Now with people with that same mindset and better business acumen re-taking the reigns 'they better not mess with our insular vision of what art is'. Hey buddy, it was your ilk's turning away of the common folks sensibilities towards art by calling a Crucifix in a jar of urine art and other items like that that started this downward spiral. Now we have to come back in and clean up your mess.

And for a quick clarification I really talking about art museums here. That is where the most controversies lay. Science and history museums while in a bit of the same pinch aren't really susceptible to the 'vision thing' issues - as much.

For a good laugh - http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/07/09/museums-are-about-the-art-not-racking-up-big-numbers-on-crowds-and-revenue.html

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