Donatien Grau. Living Museums

Conversations with Leading Museum Directors
 
 
Hatje Cantz Verlag
  • 1. Auflage
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  • erschienen am 15. Juli 2020
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  • 320 Seiten
 
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978-3-7757-4798-1 (ISBN)
 
Museen als Orte des Kunstgenusses wie als historisch gewordene Institutionen lassen sich auch mit der Frage betrachten, wer eigentlich die Köpfe dieser Tempel der Kunst sind. Welche Persönlichkeiten haben die Geschicke der großen traditionellen Häuser mit welchen Motiven wie geführt? Was bewegt internationale Kuratoren oder Museumsleute und wie haben sie sich der Aufgabe gestellt, die Häuser einer beständig wachsenden Besucherzahl zu öffnen? Donatien Grau hat mit einflussreichen Museumsmachern eindrucksvolle Gespräche geführt. Ihm verdanken wir persönliche und kunsthistorische, kulturpolitische und zeitbewusste Einblicke in die Praxis des Museums, in die Geschichte der Institutionen und in ganz persönliche Haltungen zur Kunst. Dieser Band liest sich wie ein Kunstkrimi über Vermittlungsarbeit und persönliche Motive dafür. Interviews mit MICHEL LACLOTTE, Direktor des Louvre, Paris, 1987-1995; SIR ALAN BOWNESS, Direktor der Tate, London, 1980-1988; SIR TIMOTHY CLIFFORD, Direktor der National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1984-2006; PHILIPPE DE MONTEBELLO, Direktor des Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1977-2009; IRINA ANTONOVA, Direktorin des Pushkin Museum, Moskau, 1961-2013; PETER-KLAUS SCHUSTER, Generaldirektor der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, 1998-2008; SIR MARK JONES, Direktor des Victoria & Albert Museum, London 2001-2011; TOM KRENS, Direktor des Guggenheim Museum, New York, Venedig und Bilbao, 1988-2008; WILFRIED SEIPEL, Generaldirektor des Kunsthistorischen Museum, Wien, 1998-2008; HENRI LOYRETTE, Direktor des Musée d'Orsay, Paris (1994-2001) des Louvre, Paris (2001-2013).DONATIEN GRAU (*1987) arbeitet als Kunstkritiker im Feuilleton, als Kurator im Museum oder als Gelehrter im universitären Kontext. Seine lebendige und kluge Stimme hat ihren festen Platz im Feld der Kunst.
 
As places to enjoy art, as well as institutions that have become historic, museums can also be examined through the question of who exactly heads up these temples of art. What kinds of personalities have guided the fates of these large, traditional institutions? How have they done so, and what has motivated them? What galvanizes international curators or museum employees, and how have they risen to the challenge of opening their organizations to increasingly large numbers of visitors? Donatien Grau has conducted impressive conversations with influential museum operators. We have him to thank for these personal, art historical, cultural-political, and timely insights into museum operations, the histories of various institutions, and their leaders' very personal attitudes toward art. This volume reads like a detective story about the mediation efforts of museums and the personal motives behind them. Interviews with MICHEL LACLOTTE, Director of the Louvre, Paris, 1987-1995; SIR ALAN BOWNESS, Director of the Tate, London, 1980-1988; SIR TIMOTHY CLIFFORD, Director of the National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1984-2006; PHILIPPE DE MONTEBELLO, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1977-2009; IRINA ANTONOVA, Director of the Pushkin Museum, Moscow, 1961-2013; PETER-KLAUS SCHUSTER, General Director of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, 1998-2008; SIR MARK JONES, Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum, London 2001-2011; TOM KRENS, Director of the Guggenheim Museum, New York, Venice, and Bilbao, 1988-2008; WILFRIED SEIPEL, General Director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 1998-2008; HENRI LOYRETTE, Director of the Musée d'Orsay, Paris (1994-2001), and the Louvre, Paris (2001-2013).DONATIEN GRAU is a newspaper art critic, a museum curator, and a university teacher. His lively and clever voice has a firm place in the field of art.
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978-3-7757-4798-1 (9783775747981)

Introduction


Museums have a striking ability to make us believe in the present moment that they have been here, and will be here, forever. When we enter the Louvre, whose architecture has been consistently changing over the last half-century, we have the sensation that the display of objects has always been what it is now. But the museum has expanded beyond its limitations, adding new wings to a growing ensemble. Ieoh Ming Pei's pyramid was built on the esplanade. New departments have been founded-most recently, one devoted the arts of Islam. A new entrance was added in the 1990s, which was restructured at the beginning of Jean-Luc Martinez's tenure in 2013. The Louvre now has a president-director, who oversees all aspects of the museum-it had no such position until Michel Laclotte's appointment in 1987. When the Grand Louvre was conceived, under Laclotte's supervision, it hosted roughly two million visitors and was planned for five million. Ten years later, it hosted more than ten million. In the 1990s, there was only one Louvre, whose borders kept shifting. In 2017, there were three: the Louvre in Paris, the sanaa-designed Louvre-Lens in northern France, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi, newly opened in a Jean Nouvel building. The museum of museums, as the Louvre is known, has changed. And so have all museums of comparable scope and relevance.

In the same way as museums can appear eternal-eternal in the present-it is a commonplace to say that leadership does not play any role in the history of museums; museums are places for the community, where individuality does not matter; they are collaborative endeavors of a group of equals: the curators. Art museums are devoted exclusively-following Ruskin's ideal for London's National Gallery-to the contemplation of works created by human genius. But as the number of visitors who go into museums has kept growing at an unprecedented pace over the last three decades, they have become institutions with a constituency. Not only do they reflect the politics of the time-those of the states in which they are located and to which they often belong-but they have, more importantly, become political players in their own right. The directors of institutions have been leading this specific political impetus of the museum as a force in itself; every museum, therefore, is increasingly taken between two forms of positioning: as political force or as device for political forces. They have to confront and address the changes in our cultures, which allow us to look at history outside of the solidified narrative that for so long repressed other narratives. They are forums.

This empowerment of museums is tied to an empowerment of the directors, embodying the institution they lead. They have become, over the last thirty years, public figures, to the point that some of them might be better-known for their high profile than for their action. They are far away from the previous generations of old-school curators-turned-directors and, as such, paved the way for figures that are emerging today. Some have had a vast amount of political, financial, and institutional power and have played, perhaps quietly, a major role in contemporary diplomacy. We have witnessed the shift of figure from the museum director as connoisseur to the museum director as ambassador, cabinet minister, or even as statesman.

From my many conversations with Philippe de Montebello, the longest serving director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who, for thirty years acted as the museum's face and voice, while radically shaping the institution, I understood how important museum directors had been in making those shifts. I understood that something essential had happened in the world of museums-and, in fact, in the world's cultural and political history-and that it had happened silently, without anyone paying much attention to those changes that touched the very core of time-the place where every moment fantasizes its own eternity. Philippe told me about his peers, their achievements and collaborations; I said I might go and visit them, and he generously provided introduction letters.

Encounters with Art


As I met some of the museum leaders, I was struck at how much they had to say, for us, for history. They were deeply aware of history, having worked in institutions that emanate from it and engage with it; but they had also made history in their own right. My first encounter was in Paris, with Michel Laclotte. Born in 1929, Laclotte is one of the world's most-respected experts on fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Italian art. Appointed as chairman of the painting department at the Louvre-the "king" department-by the author and then French Culture Minister André Malraux, he reorganized his department before creating two museums: the Musée du Petit Palais in Avignon, one of the most comprehensive and beautifully presented collections of primitive Italian art, essentially from the reunited Campana Collection; and the Musée d'Orsay, which we now feel to be somehow eternal, but which was only opened to the public in 1986. After that, he went on to serve as the first president-director of the Louvre.

His acquisitions-what matters most, eventually, in a connoisseurial director's tenure-are a list of masterpieces: Vermeer, Della Francesca, Bernini. We see them in the rooms of the Louvre, naturally, but thirty years ago they were not there. He got the celebrated designer Pierre Paulin to work for the Louvre. He is at the same time a remarkable scholar and an extremely radical museum leader, with very considerate manners. Listening to Michel Laclotte, I was struck at how modest he was. There was a man who had made history, and in whose legacy we are living, not only as art lovers, but in fact as human beings who are somehow exposed to culture. He was kindly sharing with me his thoughts, his stories. I could not help but listen to him and think: "We owe him so much."

This encounter was followed by many others, with figures who had, each in their own right, proven that institutions can be moved, and that, when they are, the shifts have a considerable impact on the public. Some of them have remained famous and infamous in the world at large: such is Tom Krens, the director and chief artistic officer of the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation (1988-2008), where he forever changed what museums can do, in terms of their relation to the market, in terms of their financial and geographical policy. Krens developed the system of multiple venues for an institution with the many Guggenheims, built or to be realized, from Guadalajara to Tokyo, from Bilbao to Abu Dhabi and Las Vegas. He opened wide what is possible for a contemporary museum, a type of institution he contributed to shaping, designing a program that included installations, a focus on cultural issues, and historical exhibitions. Krens had gone off the radar after leaving the Guggenheim Foundation, consulting for museums in China as well as returning to Williamstown, Massachusetts, where in the late 1980s he founded the large Kunsthalle-type institution, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), in North Adams. No one could get ahold of Krens, but Michael Govan, director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Krens's long-time deputy at MASS MoCA and the Guggenheim, shared his cell phone number. I later called him and he picked up. He eventually agreed to be interviewed, provided I would travel to the place of his original and current achievements, Williamstown-a flight to New York, a train to Albany, and a taxi to Williamstown. I was invited to stay at his house, and he guided me through the premise of a methodology and agreed to explain his career as he had never done.

But behind what was the method for the Guggenheim museums-you pay, we operate-there was another figure, now very much part of history, who created that model for the sake of public service: Sir Alan Bowness. Bowness was director of the Tate from 1980 to 1988, founder of Tate's first outpost, the Tate Liverpool, and developer of Tate St. Ives, for which he established the model later used by Krens for the Guggenheim.

Beginning in the 1980s, we can see broad modernization in the world of museums. We can sense it in the voice of Peter-Klaus Schuster, director general of the Berlin Museums (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) after the reunification, who had to rethink the purpose of all the separated museums once they had become one again; and from Wilfried Seipel, director general of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, which he brought from a sleeping beauty into modernity, while also being confronted with the theft of one of the museum's masterpiece, Cellini's Salt Cellar, or Saliera. Timothy Clifford, first in Manchester then at the National Galleries of Scotland, merely altered what the museum looked like, how the galleries were presented. He recreated eighteenth-century English houses decoration, with the combination of decorative arts, painting, and sculpture. It was his idea to redefine the display, and the sensation of the time-though this style of presenting works stopped after he retired.

Museum directors who came into office at large museums in the 2000s entered a considerably different world than at earlier times. What Tom Krens had fostered in the 1990s-a global approach-was the rule, and it still is today. Museums such as Mark Jones's Victoria and Albert and Henri Loyrette's Louvre gained power and timeliness from embracing the energy of the moment to which they belonged: being global, and being extremely local as well, which, in the case of the Louvre, was manifested in...

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