I have been invited to a one-day conference at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin to discuss the nature and character of existing cultural institutions and their continuing legitimacy in the future under the title ‘What if ?…there were no cultural institutions and we reinvented them’. This is obviously a germane discussion, coming, as I do, as a representative of an Academy – by origin, a sixteenth-century cultural genre – which is in the process of reinventing itself for the purposes of the twenty first century. I have been thinking and reflecting on what I regard as the key issues which have been debated during the course of drawing up plans for our new building. The first has been – probably inevitably – the nature of the relationship between cultural and consumer experience: how far should a cultural building located in the heart of Mayfair relate to, or differentiate itself from, the surrounding high end, consumer culture ? The second has been the extent to which the displays should be determined by the demands of the audience or by the artist as curator. The third (closely related to the second) is the extent to which it is possible to rely on pure visual experience without historical explanation. As I read the recent secondary literature, I keep remembering an unexpected finding of a consultative forum held last year in which it became clear that people in their twenties were much more hostile than older people to receiving information on tablets or their mobile phones, so that any presumption that we are moving into a world in which all information is received digitally may be wrong.