Monday 26 April 2010

Late at the X Gallery

"Late" nights - as opposed to extended opening hours - have become a feature of public programmes in New Zealand, with the Auckland Museum's well-regarded (and well publicised - hat-tip to that team) LATE at the Museum series perhaps being the best known.

This article from the NY Times offers an interesting perspective on the proliferation of after-hours events. Writer Chloe Veltman observes:

... a similitude often prevails: D.J.’s spinning electronic music, talks, art-house movies and the indispensable cash bar. An artistically satisfying after-hours event goes further than simply throwing together quirky attractions, like a modern-day version of a Victorian fun fair for young professionals. To stand out, the programming should make the art on display come to life in ways that are not necessarily possible when visitors are walking through exhibition halls during normal hours.

... Connecting evening events with the museum’s broader programming and aesthetic may not be a goal for all institutions. Some are more interested in creating fluid, abstract experiences that play on visitors’ desires to flit among a variety of attractions rather than deeply engage with a single idea. The trouble is that this approach tends to amplify the programs’ social aspects over the art. The events might bring in more young people, but they often don’t galvanize hearts and minds.

My first reaction was: yeah, deep engagement! I agree. And then I began to think - well, what's wrong with making our museums and galleries into social spaces that people use for all kinds of reason, not just for learning about and connecting with collection or exhibition items? What's wrong with me just dropping in for a cup of coffee and twenty minutes' free wifi, or a glass of wine and a gossip? If I don't "deeply engage" am I somehow a visitor failure?


A nicely apposite extract from the Guardian's Q&A with Nicolas Serota to mark the 10th anniversary of Tate Modern:

The past 10 years have seen an explosion of interest in contemporary art. Has art primarily become a form of entertainment?

No, but I was looking at something the other day that reminded me that, in the mid-19th century, Charles Eastlake, director of the National Gallery, spoke to a parliamentary select committee about how he kept seeing people in the National Gallery having picnics. He found it extraordinary that they had come in for reasons other than looking at art. The same kinds of complaint are made about people at Tate Modern. But they are here. They are finding out about themselves, they are looking at art – maybe out of the corner of their eye – but they learn something and come back. And that is all that really matters.


Robyn said...

Sometimes on the weekend I'll be walking home along the waterfront and stop by Te Papa. It's never a serious, in-depth visit. I might stop by that Shane Cotton painting I like, or maybe have a wander around a new exhibit, or just have a look at the colossal squid. I'll usually never be there for more than 30 minutes, but just because I'm not deeply engaging with Te Papa doesn't mean my visit isn't meaningful.

Courtney Johnston said...

I regularly do a one-work visit at Te Papa - I get this kind of craving to drop in and visit something.

In fact in general, I often prefer to avoid the wider narrative of a show, and just look at one or two things that particularly grab me - that way, it feels like I'm stamping my own way of visiting onto the institution, and being a little contrary.