Frank Stella, Empress of India (1965); Lobby Museum of Modern Art, New York

In 1974 William Rubin, the then director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, declared that “the museum concept is not infinitely expandable.” Addressing the need for an entirely different museum environment, Rubin had not the slightest idea of the radical shifts that would come to transform the institution – including his own MoMA – in thirty years of time. Whereas the museum once was the public space solely dedicated to contemplation on art, today’s art institution combines a shopping mall, library, restaurant as well as other peripheral functions into one. Parallel to this hybrid regime constituting today’s museum space, similar shifts transform the institution from within. Corporate identities, sponsorship references, educational programmes and other features alike all impose their logic onto the institutional structure, so as that their forms of physical manifestation – exhibition catalogues, audio guides, wall texts, etcetera – increasingly obscure the authentic aesthetic experience. Consequently, the borders between the ‘institutional’ sites in which art publicly manifests itself increasingly become blurred, as art galleries, kunsthalle, art fairs and magazines all become endowed with an equivalent cultural authority once exclusively belonging to the museum.

Reflecting of the institutional transformations mentioned hereabove, the essays in this issue diversely reconsider the museum today. Jane Boddy’s article takes on the notion of the audio- and multimediaguide. Equipped with a headset, she tours the Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum, analysing the way in which technological aides effect the aesthetic experience. Tackling Takis’s sit-in at the MoMA in the late 1960s, Elise Noyez elaborates on the institution as a cultural interlocutor and its paradoxical inevitability for artists who seek to successfully revolt it. Reviewing the Johan van Geluwe retrospective in the centre for the arts BE-PART, Stefaan Vervoort addresses the proliferation of cultural authorities and lack of self-criticism that accompanies an expanding museum landscape. The institution’s identity, more specifically its corporate representation, is central to the essay of Martijn van Beek, who reveals the future aspirations of the Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum in an analysis of the institution’s new visual style. Finally, commenting on a public statement by Gemeentemuseum The Hague’s director Benno Tempel, Laura Prins discusses museum sponsorship and the institutional responsibility that comes with it.

Stefaan Vervoort

Essays:

Jane Boddy, “Been There, Seen That”

Elise Noyez, “Going Public”

Stefaan Vervoort, “Stamping Art

Martijn van Beek, “Wake Up”

Laura Prins, “Generous Criticism

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This website is the outcome of the course Critical Issues in the Cultural Industries, supervised by prof. Wouter Davidts within the context of the Visual Arts, Media & Architecture MPhil program at VU University Amsterdam. Contributors to the site are the first and second year students of the research master enrolled in the course.

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