|Sarasota High is being converted into the Sarasota Museum of Art|
Executive Director and Chief Curator Anne-Marie Russell gave a high energy talk about the process. She posed a seemingly basic question: What is a contemporary art museum? But the answer is not so straightforward. Russell broke it down for us by parsing each of these words.
|Alfred Barr "torpedo" model|
But here's the rub: That model means the museum would have to de-accession works once they age out. What, then, should MOMA do with Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" once the cut-off date rolled around, be it 1940 or 1990? (Van Gogh painted "Starry Night" in 1889.) Sell the painting off to fund truly contemporary work?
MOMA's solution was to affiliate with another established contemporary art museum--P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City. MOMA PS1 now fulfills Barr's original intention of displaying cutting edge contemporary work, allowing MOMA the latitude to continue to show works like "Starry Night."
Educationally, however, anything will be fair game for the Museum. "Always and forever!" will be the Museum's mantra, as its team goes about educating Sarasota art lovers about the foundations of contemporary art.
Next Russell was on to the question of what constitutes (quality) art. Like most most contemporary museums, the Sarasota Museum of Art will adopt the Bauhaus model, which encompasses all variety of media and disciplines. Russell noted that video and performance art will be included under this umbrella.
|Christian Sampson Color Light Projection on display|
Finally, Russell arrived at the question what constitutes a museum. The American Alliance of Museums has a long definition that includes objectives like exhibition, conservation, research and education. The Sarasota Museum of Art is three years into the AAM's eight year accreditation process. (Note: The Museum is planning to open in late 2019, before accreditation is in place.)
But we all know more or less what a museum is. What was interesting was learning that the Museum will be a kunsthalle, or non-collecting museum. The reason for this choice is simple: money. Russell noted that the costs associated with maintaining a collection go well beyond the dollars required to purchase the art. You have to house that art permanently, whether on display or not, and develop a lending program. A massive endowment--beyond the Museum's initial reach--is required in order to operate a collecting museum properly. Russell optimistically said, "Maybe in 10 years we'll be there." For now, though, the Museum will bring in the artwork for its exhibits and bid the works a fond adieu at the end of the show.
Russell's talk was a fascinating look into just a sliver of what is happening behind the scenes as the Sarasota Museum of Art moves towards opening its doors. I can't wait to learn more.