Thursday, June 18, 2009

Out this week: Review of Trade Secrets @ Banff Centre

Canadian Art magazine hit newsstands across the nation this week. In it, you can find my review of "Trade Secrets", a curatorial conference that took place at the Banff Centre last year. Where my web report on the conference, published on Canadian Art's website in the fall, was more descriptive, I took the review opportunity to, um, basically rant on related disconnects between museums and the public. Here's an excerpt:

Whither the "public" in "public art gallery?" Where's the exhibitionism in exhibition-making? If the broadly understood purpose of art can be summarized by that old E. M. Forster chestnut "only connect," why does there seem, at times, to be so much disconnect between art and its audiences?

Such questions were not the focus of "Trade Secrets," a curatorial conference held at the Banff Centre last November, but they did emerge afterwards, as niggling, nagging, circling flies whose swatting became one of the conference's more resonant subthemes...

Though the discussions may appear largely theoretical, it's clear that the public/gallery divide they indicate has grown to near-crisis proportions in North America. Just before the conference, the Canadian government saw fit to cancel long-standing plans for a national portrait gallery, after years of design work and proposals from three major cities. The newly revamped Art Gallery of Ontario—mere months after its reopening—was [at press time] in early 2009 considering laying off 108 workers due to under-target attendance figures. The Art Institute of Chicago, in order to offset years of rising operations costs, has plans to raise admissions fees by 50% (71% for students and seniors)—a strategy that could vackfire in any season, but seems particularly risky during a recession....

The review is also placed across from a nice picture of work by James Carl, so you can glance at that if your eyes glaze over.

[Image of a Banff Centre building from Fortunately, in my review, I don't blame mountains for getting between publics and their art.]

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