3 books, 3 views on museum direction – Art Newspaper review

MUSEUMS ART THEORY CRITIQUE

British museum professional Maurice Davies has reviewed three publications, a guide to hidden art and two academic texts, for The Art Newspaper. In the article, published online in May 2011, he notes three distinct views on the future use of museums.

'The Best Art You've Never Seen' by Julian Spalding.

'The Best Art You've Never Seen' by Julian Spalding.

Scholar Tiffany Jenkins, in her book, Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: the Crisis of Cultural Authority, published by Routledge in 2010, wants to view the museum as a place separate from social and political movements, says Davies. More importantly, he states that Jenkins believes that “museums no longer value knowledge” and instead focus on generating footfall.

Click here to read the original article, titled “What are museums for?” in its entirety on the website of The Art Newspaper.

The writer seems happier with the ideas of Julian Spalding, as presented in his 2010 Rough Guide, The Best Art You’ve Never Seen: 101 Hidden Treasures from Around the World. While the publication primarily functions as a tool for those wanting to seek out lost works of art, it also acts as a vehicle for Spalding’s ideas on the public accessibility of artistic treasures, which are often kept hidden away in museum vaults for fear that they will perish, and his strong belief that nothing is a substitute for seeing the real thing.

'Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: the Crisis of Cultural Authority' by Tiffany Jenkins.

'Contesting Human Remains in Museum Collections: the Crisis of Cultural Authority' by Tiffany Jenkins.

As Davies notes, James Simpson, in his book, Under the Hammer: Iconoclasm in the Anglo-American Tradition, published by Oxford University Press in January 2011, points out an interesting paradox that exists in the protection of religious images and antiquities by museums. By housing these symbols, museums not only safeguard them from possible destruction as a result of Iconoclasm, but also “neutralise” them, removing their original purpose and instead enabling them to become part of an elitist “cultivation of taste”, which in itself is a form of Iconoclasm.

Of the three distinct viewpoints presented by the writers of the books that Maurice Davies has reviewed, which do you most agree with? Or do you have your own view on the future of the museum? Leave a comment below.

KN/HH

Related Topics: museums, art tourism, book reviews

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