The Future of the Museum (2)

As I work my way through the 28 articles in The Future of the Museum, I am struck by a comment by Philip Tinari, the Director and Chief Executive of the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing. He says, ‘We at UCCA are not a repository of objects. We are not a citadel for a collection. There is actually a better Chinese term for an institution that mounts works and exhibitions by mainly living artists, a meishuguan, versus an encyclopedic, collecting institution, a bowuguan. We are certainly the former. The English ‘museum’ is not what we are necessarily striving to be’. This, I think, encapsulates the difference between what museums used to be: place for the understanding and experience of collections of objects and works of art; and the new belief that it is more exciting to concentrate on exhibitions more than permanent collections; on the living rather than the dead. Anton Belov, who was trained as a scientist and now runs the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, puts it nicely: ‘Museums need to stop being so high-minded. A lot of people still believe a museum is a temple, even when they advocate for museums being democratic, accessible, and inclusive. In the end, they still behave like a temple. Instead of a temple, a museum should be more like a monastery, if we were to continue the religious metaphor. Part of the point of a monastery is to work on science, research, the archive, exploring deep questions. But many monasteries also became hospitals and schools during past wars and pandemics. They protect people. Museums, too, should think of themselves as monasteries, devoted to this strange thing called art…’

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