A panel on “The Changing Landscape of Museums Today” coincided with the release of the Asia Society Museum’s anthology of essays, Making a Museum in the 21st Century. Responding to a question asked by Josette Sheeran, president and chief executive officer of the Asia Society—“What does a successful museum look like in the twenty-first century?”—the museum directors Richard Armstrong and Melissa Chiu talked about collections, buildings, and exhibitions, while the bureaucrat Tom Finkelpearl zeroed in on diversity and audience.
It’s no secret that the tuition for all kinds of schools has increased significantly over the last thirty years, and thousands of students take out huge government and private loans to cover their educational expenses. Those armed with BFAs are unlikely to make tons of money right out of the starting gate, as the familiar narrative goes. Yet we live in a time in which euphoric articles pronounce the MFA as the new MBA appear with alarming regularity. What should a young artist do?
Prem Krishnamurthy’s talk “Double Agency” addressed the speaker’s two primary roles: a founder of the design firm Project Projects (with Adam Michaels) and director and curator of P!—an interdisciplinary curatorial space that he described as a “mom-and-pop kunsthalle”—on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Project Projects has a critical and conceptual relationship to graphic design, Krishnamurthy said, that includes curatorial and editorial roles, but with respect to the traditional worker/client relationship. His goal is to produce design that is porous rather than unidirectional, working with existing materials and ideas instead of starting new with each project.
For the final panel of the Museum as Hub Conference, called “Institutions after Art,” the moderator, Taraneh Fazeli, education associate at the New Museum, wanted to explore institutional programming, alliances, content, context, and power dynamics, not just the status of structures that support artists. The Museum as Hub has supported exhibitions as a coproducer. What else can noncuratorial departments, independent groups, and nonprofit organizations do?
“Networked Institutions/Institutionalized Networks” sought to shed light on the dynamics of collaboration among institutions—now considered a common way of working in the art and museum worlds—that may have become obscured. Should networks increase an individual’s productivity? Is a network altruistic? Can schemata such as Alfred H. Barr Jr.’s famous diagram of the evolution of modern art, the research-based work of Mark Lombardi, and the politically oriented wall drawings of Dan Perjovschi be considered networks?
According to Annie Fletcher, curator at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, the professor Irit Rogoff once wrote that “you can’t have a position without a location.” A location, Fletcher explained further, can be psychic, historical, and sexual. Despite this expanded denotation, geography and its larger concept, proximity, nevertheless remains a perceived obstacle that needs to be overcome. The second panel for the Museum as Hub Conference, “Choosing Your Neighbors,” aimed to cover partnerships among institutions from across the globe and to address concerns of provincialism.
A focus on inventive educational programming in art museums is decades old, as Michelle Jubin has brought to light in her essay “Museum Education and the Pedagogic Turn,” but the recent intensive focus on it—especially in relation to curatorial authorship, relational aesthetics, and social practice—has produced a new class of cultural workers that focus on the intersections of art, learning, technology, and the public.
A packed room rustled and bustled in anticipation of this star-studded panel organized by Hrag Vartanian, a former art critic who now edits the blogazine Hyperallergic. Vartanian truly “understands the Bushwick meme,” according to Peter P. Hopkins, the director of the Bogart Salon, a social space in a gallery building called 56 Bogart Street in Brooklyn. Not simply a “cheerleader,” Hopkins continued, Vartanian also “interrogates” the Bushwick art scene—whatever that means.
Whether it was the furor of the first few weeks of Occupy Wall Street or the popularity of the presenters, more than one hundred listeners packed the main gallery space of Art in General to hear a discussion on “what the neoliberal economy has imposed on artists,” according to one panelist, and on what the art world’s 99 percent can do to get ahead. Cosponsored by Silvershed, “Off the Clock: Working with Flexible Labor, Social Networks, and Everyday Life” allowed four panelists and a moderator to thrash out the intersections of art, labor, and community.