I don't think this is a big trend, nor a "risky" one. In contemporary art, at the very least, when working with living artists (which is what New Zealand galleries spend the majority of their time doing), participatory practices tend to be initiated or adopted by the artist/s involved, not that institution.
In late October the Wall Street Journal published an article by Ellen Gamerman on crowd-sourced exhibitions. She gives a number of examples of exhibitions, ranging from the contribute-your-own-work genre to the vote-for-your-favourite vein, and canvases museum professionals who are pro, anti, and undecided on the topic. The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, helmed by Nina Simon, is prominently discussed in the piece, which states
The trend is sparking a growing debate among artists, curators and other art-world professionals about everything from where to draw the line between amateurs and experts to what even constitutes a crowdsourced show. How far can museums go in delegating choices to the public? How tightly should they control the voting on exhibit content? And at what point does a museum start looking too much like a community center?In a long blog post Ed Rodley takes Gamerman to task for creating "this false tension between scholarship and popularity/financial gain" and featuring "a ton of generational baiting", but notes that it also contains "some fascinating observations about the museum industry today". He summarises
Probably the biggest takeaway a novice museumgoer might glean from the article is that there’s this conflict going on in museums between curators and people interested in art and learning on one side, and young popularists, interested in…something… on the other side. The dominant narrative is that proponents of participatory projects are only interested in getting bodies in the door.Paul Orselli also tackled the issue, drawing, I think, a false dichotomy between generations of museum professionals - stuffy hanging-on-by-their-fingernails traditionalists and innovative newer professionals desperately banging their heads against the baffled and baffling management class. He writes
When I first started working in museums over 30 years ago, I thought I could I could just "wait out" the Old Guard, but in some ways, I feel like I'm still waiting. There's an obstreperous and intransigent lot that seems like they'll never get off the stage and give the younger people coming up behind them a chance to help the museum field grow and evolve.To which I'd say that in my experience the philosophies of museum professionals tend to be less driven by age than by the ideas and experiences they chose to value and give their attention to. Take, for example, if you were there, Anthony Byrt and Sarah Farrar fighting for the value of the encounter with the physical object in the physical museum when Jim Barr dropped the 'surely museums are just going to become defunct in the internet age' provocation on them at a panel discussion in Simon Denny's show at the Adam a few weeks ago.
Finally, Nina Simon wrote a response to Gamerman's article, in which she pointed out that director and curator voices are prominent in the piece, but none of the people who form "the crowd". She also struggles to find a better capture-code for this kind of activity, seeing the 'crowd' bit as somewhat cynical (driven by boosting ticket sales or visitor numbers).
After reading all the articles several times, and again just now, I once again conclude - meh. It's a topic worth talking about, I agree, but best discussed in the context of ALL the different ways we - whoever 'we' is - might make exhibitions. Single it out and it stops making much sense. Contextualise it, and we might have more of a conversation.