The Ideal Contemporary Art Museum
Two decades ago, and due to my happy returns to Finland, I have proposed to the ambitious colleague curators in a Finish town the name for their dream: Taide Tile, - the space of art. (I wrote my concept for them: this fragment dates from that time, but it is the story of the failed Guggenheim Helsinki that reminded me of this project). I still cherish the idea of art museum as a place where art happens.
No museum should be created to the likeness of the others. The modern tradition of art museums is to oblige anybody to the usual solutions. Too many new museums are both intellectually and socially disputable to be a model anyhow. The "Ta-Ti" was the name we spelled together and thus I joined their precious effort: it was about art, it was the space where it happens and it was the personalised name for museum. They asked me to lecture about it, and I did it. We never continued the work jointly. Yet, afterwards, I often thought about their dream and it intrigued me so much that I decided to take up the most delicate “museological” subject: the theme of art museums. I never dared to publish those considerations. I have often discussed the matter with the late Kenneth Hudson who claimed that the "art museums are the backward children of the museum world". I agreed with his arguments and at that time it was more true than nowadays. But, then again, the circumstances advanced much too, so I guess he would still cling to his claim if he were here.
The international art phalange consisting of art historians, art dealers, tycoon collectors, art publishers, famous architects and politicians has its agreed formula of prestige that pumps out the public money and creates grand palaces for their art. The artistic stars created, for the most part, by the very machine they run, practice "their art". They classify their opponents in the rough category of those who resent contemporary art, and thus dismiss criticism.
For reformers too eager, beware! Art museums today are probably the first by the augmentation of visits and close to be that by the share of total number of visitors. But this does not correspond to the quality of visits nor it means an unquestionable success. Conditioned by education, media and prevailing patterns of behaviour, the average visitors behave like zombies. Never before in history, was the public consumption of art as massive as today. Equally never before there existed such a dramatic gap between the official notion of art and cognitive/emotional as well as intellectual capacity of actual or prospective consumers to understand it.