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Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

Museums in the crucible

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 at 7:36 pm

A recent article from ARTnews magazine shed light on a big question mark in the art world: the future of museums. The recent economic hardships have forced many museums to make cutbacks and painful sacrifices. However, as Jessica Starr noted, museums have also ramped up efforts by promoting many free events, extending hours, or eliminating entrance fee during certain hours. In times of hardships, museums become desperate to draw new audiences for the future.

This new fervor for marketing seems to be caused by more than the harsh economic climate. Perhaps museums are now forced to respond to an ever-changing contemporary culture. Now, more than ever, museum staff and administrators are looking back to its true mission and trying to change the image of these institutions from being a stuffy, cold box filled with pictures to an interactive and accessible cultural environment by using new technologies and marketing tools.

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a photograph submitted by G. Rowland Williams for Metropolitan Museum of Art sponsored contest for its visitors

There are some, however, that disagree with this new turn in direction. Timothy Rub, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art comments,

I do not think this is a time that museums need to take, due to economic circumstances, a radical new direction…it’s precisely the kind of time when it’s imperative to reaffirm the fundamental mission of museums: curatorial work, conservation, and education. Marketing and special events are less a core function of museum work than curatorial work is.

While this belief urges everyone to be cautious and not be fooled by the effects of the fickle economy, no one can ignore this startling statistic: while school programs brought more than 3 million children into AAMD-member (Association of Art Museum Directors) museums last year, by 2034, when the minority will become the majority, only 9% of these children would have visited a museum. There is a huge discrepancy between the current museum audiences and the reality of the population. If something does not change, “…we’ll be out of business by 2034,” said Julian Zugazagoitia, director of El Museo del Barrio.

Only time will tell whether some of these age-old institutions will adapt to the digital era. Meanwhile, keep your eyes peeled out for innovative programs and free events at a museum near you!

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The Brodsky Bill and its effect on the sale of art

In Uncategorized on June 24, 2009 at 10:56 pm

According to the New York Times, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, along with Senator José M. Serrano, the State Board of Regents, and the Museum Association of New York, recently drafted a bill that would strictly regulate the deaccessioning of collections. Essentially, the bill would prohibit selling of works of art in order to pay for extraneous or operating expenses. Mr. Brodsky explains in the case of the Metropolitan Opera’s murals, “You can’t sell off a Chagall in order to put on a performance of ‘Don Giovanni.’” Or in the case of the Museum of Natural History, he adds, “You can’t sell off ‘The Bulls and the Bears in the Market’ in order to pay for air conditioning.” Brodsky’s intention behind the bill is to protect public interest. The bill is now working its way through the Legislature.

Though the bill was supported by prominent organizations such as the Museum of Modern Art, Lincoln Center, The Studio Museum of Harlem, and Wildlife Conservation Society, the bill is also receiving much criticism from numerous museums that are feeling enormous strain from the economic downturn. Among the protesters of the bill: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. So why are these museum giants protesting a bill that is supposed to protect our interests?

These cultural organizations fear that the bill would restrict their ability to fully curate their collection. In addition, they view the bill to be too general as it doesn’t allow exceptions that may arise from different financial situations.

It remains unclear whether the bill would receive enough support to be put in affect, though the debate continues. In times of hardship, shouldn’t museums be allowed to take necessary actions to stay afloat? Stay tuned to find out whether the future of these museum giants will be affected.

Artists v. Google

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2009 at 5:41 pm

The internet can be a useful tool for artists wanting to promote their works. But what happens when the trusty tool that we’ve all relied on stops working for us?

Recently a group of illustrators has been waging a (losing?) war with Google ever since the internet-giant asked several illustrators whether their works could be used as “skins” for Google’s new web browser, Chrome. Chrome allows users to select different “skins” in order to customize the look of the browser. One of the artists tapped was Gary Taxali, who became furious when Google declined to compensate the artist for his work. A New York Times article explores the issue.

In April 28, Taxali quickly responded by posting on Drawger, a website for illustrators. He wrote, “So for you, I give you a special salute that I hope will keep you away because I don’t need your work.” The post, which lamented about the reduced fees for illustrators because of the economy, was accompanied by an illustration of a one-fingered salute. (The post has been since taken down by the artist)

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Other artists such as Joe Ciardiello and Melinda Beck have also rejected Google’s offer. Ciardiello commented, “You’d think that if anyone can afford to pay artists and designers it would be a company making millions of dollars.” Indeed, even in an economic downturn, Google managed to turn a profit of $1.42 billion.

Google’s spokesman responded that the company does not typically provide compensations for such instances and cited examples of artists such as Jeff Koons, Bob Dylan, and Gucci, whom in the past donated images of their works. In addition, Google alluded that the exposure of the artists seems to be an indirect type of compensation.

Brian Stauffer, a Miami illustrator, best describes the issue that goes beyond the lack of compensation. “There’s a lot of concern that newspapers and all of print is becoming a bit of an endangered species…when a company like Google comes out very publicly and expects that the market would just give them free artwork, it sets a very dangerous precedent.”

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But many artists already accepted the offer from Google, which renders the battle against Google and the internet almost futile. So how can these artists wield this double-edged sword?

Polaroid in the digital world

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Remember the days of Polaroids? I still remember the sheer excitement back in elementary school when I was handed a square sheet of what seemed to be glossy cardboard paper. My teacher instructed me to shake the paper, and look! My portrait magically appeared. That magic has dissipated mostly in part of the digital era, where you can get crisp, instant images stored in a compact camera that you could store forever.

With the emergence of digital cameras, Polaroid cameras started to fade into the background and eventually stopped manufacturing film. I, myself, am a full convert to the digital cameras for numerous reasons. But for those of you who are longing for the good old days, there may be some good news! The New York Times reports that a small group of Dutch scientists are working to bring back Polaroid back to the mainstream. Florian Kaps, one of the sponsors of the project, believes that “It is about the importance of analog aspects in a more and more digital world.”

But in a world where instant gratification is so sought after, what place does the now antique Polaroid camera have? If it is brought back, will there be enough demand to keep the company afloat? Mr. Kaps is confident in the Polaroid’s place in the market. “If everyone runs in one direction, it creates a niche market in the other,” he said.

In addition, some artists are now deliberately looking to use Polaroid films to produce a feeling of nostalgia. Marta Bukowska, a partner in Basic Model Management in New York, comments that she is asked to capture the “high-quality, old fashioned look.” She continues, “It used to be something you use for a lighting test…now it is the art itself.”

In fact, websites such as Polaroid.net, with it’s motto of “bringing back the instant fun,” is an indication that the Polaroid aesthetic is prominent. The website allows people to upload Polaroid pictures and browse through what others have put up as well.

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Still the scientists and sponsors are facing a few challenges ahead of them. The most crucial task at hand is to reinvent the film-making process that was dismantled in the U.S. after dissolution of the company. The scientists in total have about 300 years of experience together, so it won’t be long before they master the old art. Time to bring out the bulky Polaroid camera from the closet.

13 Charges dropped against Shepard Fairey

In Uncategorized on June 3, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Obama Poster Artist

On February 6, Shepard Fairey, artist best known for his Obama “Hope” poster, was arrested in Boston on charges of vandalism. Shepard, 39, who was on the way to his solo exhibition kick-off event at the Institute of Contemporary Art, is considered to be a “guerilla artist” for his graffiti. Though on June 2, 13 charges were dismissed, Fairey is still fighting 15 similar charges. Read the full article here.

“Well, I love street art, always have. I love the process,” said Fairey in an interview with Tim Yu. “On the street it’s free and you can tear it down, but in the gallery its expensive and untouchable… I want to empower people with my artwork…”

Fairey’s works raise issues of boundaries in art. What are rights of artists (how free is free?), and how much should the law constrict freedom of expression?

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