Last year this column noted how museums that are known for collecting art of the past were playing catch-up with the 21st century. Example: New York’s venerable Metropolitan Museum of Art hired the curator of London’s popular Tate Modern to expand programming to modern and contemporary art.
The newest museum to join the future is the Museum of Fine Art in St. Petersburg, FL, better known for collecting ancient Greek and Roman, Egyptian, Asian, African, pre-Columbian, and Native American art. Modernism reached only as far as Monet, Gauguin, Renoir, Morisot, Cézanne, Rodin, and O’Keeffe.
MFA has now hired its first curator of contemporary art, Katherine Pill, former, Assistant Curator and Curatorial Fellow at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City.
Reasons for expanding the art agenda are not hard to figure out. Follow the money.
Tate Modern, which opened in 2000, is the best attended modern-art museum on the planet, drawing some five million visitors a year. And despite the Met’s encyclopedic collection, http://tapeunit.com/article/why-art-history-matters its single most popular exhibition was a Picasso show.
This is also why the Kunsthaus Zürich has combined 100 works from both the 17th century and today – reportedly not only to point out the vitality, but also to demonstrate the directness, and sensuality of each. Zurich reasoned that older art seen with a contemporary perspective can be understood in fresh ways. The Museo Guggenheim Bilbao followed this example and picked up the Zurich show for this year.
Not every museum has gotten the message, though. Two years ago this column suggested that the Ringling Museum, known for 17th century art, a.k.a. Baroque, link old art to new, pointing out their commonality. The Ringling mounted a Hip-Hop show called “Beyond Bling” without connecting to its Baroque collection. The word “Beyond” in the Hip-Hop show title referred only to contemporary culture.
The Ringling missed the opportunity to demonstrate that Baroque and Bling are tied at the hip! While Bling is street slang for flashy and gaudy, so is Baroque art, which scorned the symmetry, balance, and proportion of classical art and piled on emotion. Rather than idealizing people and places, the style shows struggling, earthy figures in turbulent settings, and reveals a world in flux and off balance, a world that is searching and questioning. In other words, Baroque is the very stuff of Bling.
Linking Bling to Baroque would have juiced up the art experience of both styles.
And likely gate receipts, too.