The paradox at the heart of any cultural institution

Jed Perl in The New Republic:

Newmoma_1There is a paradox at the heart of any cultural institution. It is that the men and women who dedicate themselves to these essential enterprises exert a fiscal and administrative discipline that has nothing whatsoever to do with the discipline of art, which is a disciplined abandon. I imagine that for anybody who founds or sustains or rescues or re-invents a museum, an orchestra, or a dance company, this tension between the institution and the art comes to feel like a natural paradox. There is always a balancing act involved, which helps to explain why the very greatest institution-builders (Lincoln Kirstein comes to mind) invariably have something of the artist’s temperament. And when we consider how rare such people are, we realize that there is nothing surprising about the fragility, the mediocrity, and the downright banality of so many cultural enterprises. If making art is hard, making an arts institution work may be harder still. 

I believe it is important to recall the daunting nature of these challenges as we consider the deeply troubling state of the Museum of Modern Art a year after its re-opening.

More here.