Why Art Museums?

Julian Rose at Bookforum:

“Art museums are in a state of crisis.” The diagnosis is drastic, the remedy equally so: a radical update of both form and function. Hopelessly out of touch with the pulse of contemporary culture and the rhythms of everyday life, the grandiose architecture of the museum must be rethought in terms of adaptability and flexibility, with inert galleries transformed into sites of ongoing experimentation. Likewise the visitor’s experience, still rooted in antiquated models of passive contemplation, must be reimagined as a process of active participation and immersive engagement. Museums must reinvent themselves wholesale, in other words, to “guarantee their survival in a changing world.”

In its sheer ambition and sweeping scope, this proposal seems perfectly attuned to our topsy-turvy moment, when venerable institutions are struggling to attract visitors and maintain cash flow (see the Met in New York, which controversially resorted to charging admission last year) even as new museums continue to crop up in cities around the globe, each vying to outdo the others with more exotic architecture and more experimental exhibition formats.

more here.