Monday, August 6, 2007
Or your worst nightmare? A recent article in The Art Newspaper points out that there are more than two dozen museums in the United States currently searching for new directors. Big names on the search for big names to head them include The Smithsonian Institution, The National Portrait Gallery, the Kimbell Art Museum, The Milwaukee Art Museum, and my hometown Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. (And if any of those institutions are reading this, especially the PAFA, please feel free to send your offer to me at ArtBlogByBob@hotmail.com. A job at the PAFA would actually shorten my commute. Think zeroes. Lots of zeroes.)
Of course, I’m vastly underqualified for any museum director position. Such a job seems like a dream come true—shaping the course of a major collection and determining the vision for your own little wedge of art history—until the real-life nightmare of fundraising rears its gruesome visage. Finding someone capable of handling both duties to the satisfaction of trustees makes filling the voids difficult, if not impossible. David Packwood at Art History Today takes a look at this quandary and quotes Marc Spiegler at Art World Salon, who suggests separating the fundraising and actual art functions. I’m not sure that separating the functions is even an option. It strikes me that the person hobnobbing with the donors needs to be able to talk about the artworks authoritatively and entertainingly at the same time they dip into nearby pockets. Somehow, a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde combination may be the perfect curator—polished and erudite art history PhD at one moment, slavering and money-mad MBA the next.
How the The Art Newspaper article explained the deluge of openings also bothered me. Although many can be chalked up to retirements, you wonder just how much these "retirements" owe to the new concentration on fundraising, intensified no doubt by the increased lack of government arts funding in the United States. One former head admits he left for the greener directorship pastures of the United Kingdom, where, he claims, the focus remains more on scholarship and art history than on staging the same old popular blockbuster shows guaranteed to draw crowds and generate revenue. (David Packwood can perhaps speak at length at just how “green” those English pastures might be.) Such a brain drain on our art institutions coupled with the increasing lack of arts coverage in the mainstream press may be the first hoofbeats of an oncoming art apocalypse in America.