Time for Museums to Change

I just got back from a wonderful trip to Copenhagen with the family. We visited one of the best modern art museums I’ve seen – Louisiana in the outskirts of the city. One of the exhibitions at the museum is by David Hockney whom I’ve loved and respected for years. This is a collection of works done on iPad and shared with his friends through the years.  He talks about the originality of a piece of art in its digital form and what is then a reproduction.

But the one thing that caught my eye was a small sign that read “photography not allowed”.

What??? Here we are, viewing an exhibition done on an iPad and that deals with a strong subtext of collaboration but we are asked not to take pictures. I’d understand if flash photography would hurt the delicate silk materials but preventing the photography in this exhibition goes against all that the i-era stands for. Instead of allowing every spectator to easily share with his Facebook friends his favorite piece of Hockney art and maybe even promote him to buy a poster print for himself, download a paid screensaver app, pre book online museum tickets and purchase a book; instead of encouraging discussion, what the museum did was to block access. It’s not surprising that almost everyone took videos and pictures with their iPhones. I did the same, I hope I won’t be arrested next time I’m in Denmark…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The only thing the exhibition has, and this I saw only later, was an option to scan a QR code (I saw this on the website, I might have missed it at the exhibition) to download 5 of the hundreds of images to the phone. This is indeed a great start but in this context I think it’s simply not enough.

Museums need to start making art more accessible and in touch with the new generation. I love visiting museums with my kids but other than interactive works of art, they feel like they are in a boring opera. If they walk quickly they get scolded, if they get to close to an exhibit, they get frowned at. they need to walk quietly like civilized human beings. Quietly, otherwise the painting will wake up.

The Jerusalem Museum, for example, has one of the most inspiring sculpture gardens in world. The mountain air combined with the mysterious atmosphere of the city and wonderful curation. But even there, one is not allowed to climb the huge Henry Moore statue that was almost meant to be explored from within.  The huge apple statue by Claes Oldenburg which invites people to sit inside it is guarded by a keeper that asks spectators to view it from afar (in a funny non-Apple like manner). Even the wonderful Anish Kapoor statue cannot be explored too closely.

The Jerusalem museum is just an example, the same image of the often tired museum keeper sitting on the wooden folding chair can be seen anywhere in the world. Don’t get me wrong, the Louvre should keep an eye on the Mona Lisa and we don’t want anyone drawing her a mustache but to make art accessible to the world, a change is needed. This change doesn’t mean placing an interactive iPad next to a piece of art, it means changing the mentally and allowing them to interact freely with art.  Thats real inspiration.

Kids today grow up with the ability and need to communicate not only through vision but also through touch. Its enough to see my 2 year old playing with my ipad to understand how this is a basic need thats finally fulfilled. Denying them of this ability will alienate our kids from art.

Prior to visiting Copenhagen we had atrip to Disneyland Paris. Why should Disneyland be the exact opposite of a museum? What Walt Disney realized 56 years ago, and gets realized by so many brands today (The Experience Economy talked about this 12 years ago already!) should infect the art scene as well. I would love to see a Disneyland type of museum.

Otherwise, museums will keep on looking like opera houses, visited by baby boomers that “finally” discover art… quietly… Sshhhh, what a great Impressionist drawing…

2 Responses to “Time for Museums to Change”
  1. tamar baneth says:

    Hi Ron. good luck with your new company.
    Tamar (ex-modu).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: