Friday, January 07, 2011

You need to get out more often

NZ art museums are hot on education so it’s surprising how little they do to educate beyond their own walls. TV may have vanished as a viable education medium, but you’d think something like YouTube that allows the widest possible audience would be a gift.

TED is of course a great example of this sort of serious entertainment. For an audience the genius of TED is the way it strongly frames up very diverse presentations as part of the TED ideas enterprise. The TED brand is an assurance of interest, relevance and quality. Superb curation in other words. 

Art museums can claim some expertise in that field but so far the material they present on mass sourced video is very patchy. City Gallery has done a little but nothing that builds as a sustained programme, Auckland Art Gallery is obsessed with its new building and while Te Papa was using YouTube regularly a year ago, it seems to have lost interest.

Rather than tying a video presence to their exhibition programme as they usually have, wouldn't it be great if they took the TED line and make more of themselves, their resources and the contacts they have with the art world. Interviews with a range of artists, curators, writers, interesting people with something to say or show, presentations on works from the collection, even revelations from the backroom.

Some museums certainly took the lead as cultural commentators and describers of the new in the hot medium back in the day - TV. In San Francisco we saw examples of a 1950s TV broadcast programme by the SFMoMA called Art in your life. It ran fortnightly for three years racking up 220,000 viewers a show. It looks cheesy now but you can’t miss the museum’s passion to share its knowledge with a wider audience or, as they put it themselves, “Increase the appreciation of art in the daily lives of everyone.” In all the talk about access, that word ‘everyone’ has a nice ring to it. 

In a deeply ironic show of absentmindedness, SFMoMA has not put the show online.
Images: A visit to a life class in an episode of the TV show Art in your life on view at SFMoMA.