Spaces for Art

Those interested in both art and architecture are encouraged to check out the June/July Art in America, which includes the following article by Douglas Davis: “The Museum of the Third Kind: In which the author envisions new directions for the art museum as audiences change, architecture evolves, institutions subdivide and electronic resources expand our capabilities and expectations.” Davis’s primary statement is that “we should move ahead – toward structures that are cerebral, interactive, quick to change or modify their forms with every new show.” Modify how much?

“I will not be surprised to find rakish vanguard museums adopting the ‘mutable screen’ storefronts and walls already seen in Times Square, changing throughout the day, perhaps altering imagery or message to accord with the latest exhibition or performance inside, perhaps responding visually to faces and voices on the street.”

The “Third Kind” of the article’s title follows the “First Kind,” which meant the private collections of popes and kings, and the “Second Kind,” which Davis calls “the vigorously public museum,” from the Louvre and continuing to the Guggenheim. “Briefly put,” he states, “'Third Kind’ connotes a protean, de-centered museum that gives primacy to its program, not its material condition or geographical place.”

The article has a few interesting historical nuggets (“When the Louvre opened to the public, captions placed on the wall were revolutionary instruments of democracy”), and the tone is enthusiastic, not crotchety. I do have to wonder how much more difficult it’ll be to fund new $200-million museum buildings when they’re being described as “de-centered.”

Two of the author’s points – that access to art makes us hungry for more; and that more institutions will be devoted to the relationship between the art-makers and their public – made me think of an experience I had a few weeks ago. I’d been reading Alex Ross’s blog “The Rest Is Noise,” where the New Yorker critic was revisiting Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time,” which he wrote about last year and which my brother bought me a year before that. Ross was pointing his visitors to the site of pianist Jeremy Denk, who had just published a long and emotional post about playing the strange and beautiful work a night or so earlier. In this instance, both of Davis’s hoped-for scenarios for museums – more information; greater connection to the art-production – are happening, in a personal and insightful way, in this world of blogs. Just a thought.