Home » On Museums…

On Museums…

In light of the recent awarding, to Art Gallery of Ontario Director Matthew Tietelbaum, of the annual MOCCA award – $20,000 that recognizes a Canadian active in the art world for a contribution of “national or international significance”, a blog entry from Time.com seems relevant.

In it, Richard Lacayo writes about the “emergency de-accessioning” (bailouts for museums) that is emerging south of the border, as museums struggle along with the rest of the economy.

Read it HERE and former Whitney Museum curator David Ross’s response HERE.


The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, designed by Isozaki Arata (1986). It received a bailout by billionaire collector Eli Broad last month. Image: britannica.com/Ken Biggs—Tony Stone Images.

(Come to think of it, how much longer will these corporate-sponsored arts awards be around? The MOCCA award is underwritten by BMO, EllisDon and others…)

We wondered about institutions closer to home, and, well the Royal Ontario Museum isn’t looking too good. We’re not aware of the details, but it appears that it may be in for a dicey future, what with Daniel Libeskind’s embarrassing crystal addition and $22 entry fees. And the current diamond exhibition – surely they can’t be serious??? In our opinion, the least the ROM could do would be some creative curating. It wouldn’t have to cost huge amounts. We’re talking paint, projections….energy! Amazingly, for an institution with a new (ish) addition by a starchitect, the place feels like a dead zone. (And a unfortunate waste of money.)


A completely fake image of a fake diamond from a fake website. But still, a great idea. image: brightonbam.co.uk

The diamond show could have had glittery walls, artfully lit. What about the history of diamonds in Pop culture? Marilyn, anyone? Andy Warhol’s Diamond dust paintings? What about the phenomenon of bling? Diamond-encrusted technology – hello, Pharrell? It might have been kitch, but at least it would have been fun.
And the show could have focused less on the techical and more on the beautiful. (And…The gift shop could have been less horribly cheap and tacky.)

In short, museums shouldn’t pander to the lowest common denominator. They should be places that educate, but that also inspire, amuse and engage. The AGO seems to understand this. Let’s hope the ROM learns, too.

Will the ROM raise its game now that the AGO is the city’s newest hotspot? Stay tuned….

We hear rumours of Ydessa Hendeles curating a show on Luxury…that would certainly be a reputation-saving move.

Visit the ROM’s website – free of charge – HERE. Go to the Sneak Peek section for a glimspe behind the scenes as the galleries were being finished and installed.

7 Responses to “On Museums…”

  1. Perhaps the show could be more like you suggest – but how do you apply such a critique to the context of a museum at least in part mandated, (as William Thorsell notes in ROM’s release to the press) to showcase natural history exhibitions. The Nature of Diamonds was curated by George E. Harlow of the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, which does support the natural history focus idea….;)

    On the other hand, maybe VOCA’s onto sumpthun’ here – maybe ROM and other museums currently “pandering to the lowest common denominator” as you suggest could hire curators to head up “phenomenon of bling” departments asap!

  2. Andrea says:

    I’m just talking about giving audiences something special…out-of-the-box thinking. Of course the shows should stay within mandate, but I think that show, at least, could have been more exciting. And for $22, I think museums should give audiences a really great, surprising, entertaining show.

  3. So how does that tie in with Lacayo’s hard sell piece?

  4. And how does that tie in with Tietelbaum’s MOCCA Award?

  5. Murray Quinn says:

    The audiences in Grande Prairie, AB are getting something special, and it’s absolutely free! After a heavy snow load brought down the roof of the public gallery two years ago, the staff literally had to ‘think outside the box’. Programs and projects in alternative venues have been a welcome change from the traditional white box exhibitions. The gallery is currently installing ‘an exhibition of temporary public interventions by an international selection of artists presented throughout downtown Grande Prairie..’ Curated by Micah Lexier, this exciting project (Here, Now or Nowhere) takes programming into the community, including; video works and installations in storefronts, Kelly Marks ‘Glow House’, Germaine Koh’s interactive audio work ‘Call’, and art delivered right to your door in the form of full page newspaper projects – suitable for framing! http://www.herenowornowhere.com

    It makes me wonder if perhaps we are better off without the constraints, and the financial pressures, of operating a building. (For the record, The Prairie Art Gallery moves into a newly constructed facility in April).

  6. Members at The ROM can see The Nature of Diamonds for free. Non members who object to the $22.00 ticket can pay half the price to see it if they go on a Friday night. Or you can buy a pint of haagen-dazs and a coke for around the equivalent at Kitchen Table;)

    I’m really warming to the idea of phenomenon of bling departments and staff etc. – but for that you absolutely need a building….

  7. guzsergi says:

    muy bueno lo tuyo. felicitaciones. guZ.

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