The inaugural Asia Society Arts and Museum Summit explored new models for museums in the 21st century.
On 21 and 22 November 2013, museum leaders from across the globe gathered at Asia Society in Hong Kong for the inaugural Asia Society Arts and Museum Summit. The participants met to discuss new models for museums in the 21st century and their role in the world, the city and the future, focusing on the Asia region.
The Asia Society held their inaugural Arts and Museum Summit on 21 and 22 November 2013 in Hong Kong. The Summit focused on the exploration of new models for museums in the twenty-first century, recognising that the majority of museums under construction in the next decades will be in Asia.
Issues discussed at the summit included the challenges and opportunities in the cultural sector today, the developing museum ecology in Asia and opportunities for professional development and partnerships among museums.
Keynote speakers included Glenn Lowry, who identified some key issues to be addressed by the museum of the twenty-first century, and Hiroshi Sugimoto, who provided his insights as a “consumer of museums” and an artist.
The role of the museum in the twenty-first century
The three panel discussion topics at the summit were:
- The Museum in the World. Museums have the potential to look beyond their physical spaces and localities for opportunities to create new experiences, through international partnerships and collaborative exchanges.
- The Museum in the City. Museums have prominent locations at the heart of cities, a position that favourably engages audiences and the community but also presents challenges.
- Inside the Museum: Future Propositions. Museum leaders considered contemporary issues in order to construct the ideal museum model, focusing on the Asian region.
Opening the summit, the panel discussion “Making a Museum in the twenty-first Century” featuring Glenn Lowry, Caroline Collier, Lars Nittve, Wang Chunchen and Melissa Chiu, identified three main topics as key questions for museums:
- How do museums recognise a transnational perspective in what they do?
- How can museums offer transformative experiences with art?
- How do museums address participation, whether through participatory art such as performance art, or outside of the physical museum space, and the idea of engaging audiences online, through social media and other technologies?
Click here to view Glenn Lowry’s keynote speech on Asia Society’s website.
Transcending physical boundaries, aspiring to freedom
Keynote speaker Glenn Lowry, Director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, called on his colleagues around the globe “to be subversive”, emphasising the nature of the summit: innovating the museum’s role and structure for the future, transcending boundaries and transforming its relationship to the public.
Lowry pinpointed three basic questions the summit sought to address, related to the ones identified in the first panel discussion:
- What should Museums of the twenty-first century look like?
- How should they display art and engage viewers?
- Is there a disruption to the current thinking that should be addressed?
Lowry went on to identify key issues that should be considered in discussing museums of the twenty-first century:
- Tradition and disruption. New approaches to art, calling for new ways of displaying and engaging the community and the public. The museum should find ways of sustaining disruption while honouring tradition.
- The spectator and the participant. The museum should recognise and allow the periodic transition from a secondary relationship (as a spectator) to an ownership relationship to the institution (as a participant), which provides a social experience.
- Freedom versus constraints. The controlled infrastructure of a museum works against a museum being creative and free. There needs to be a negotiation and a balance between the encouragement of transgression and responsibility towards artworks and the public.
- On Site and On Line. The online and on site experience should integrate one another. The way we imagine the virtual space is closely connected and essential to how we are going to use and interpret the physical space. The ultimate goal is to be able to share in the conversations with an institution whenever and wherever we are.
- Analogue versus Digital Thinking. The institution is inherently analogue, with defined hierarchies, presumed responsibilities and a very structured environment. The digital world is seen through a series of principles which innovate and render the nature of a museum flexible, transforming it into an organic network or system, collaborating and sharing with other institutions.
To conclude, Lowry said museums should build on their own disruption, seeking artists and institutions that can “shake them up.” Museums should take risks, taking the museum out of its walls and creating spaces where people participate, where “social engagement is absolute.”
Other speakers at the summit included:
- Hiroshi Sugimoto, artist
- Michael Brand, Director, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
- Janet Carding, Director, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto
- Alan Chong, Director, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore
- Caroline Collier, Director, Tate National, London
- Yuko Hasegawa, Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
- Yongwoo Lee, President, Gwangju Biennale Foundation, Gwangju
- Sophie Makariou, President, Musée National des Arts Asiatiques Guimet, Paris
- Jessica Morgan, Curator of International Art, Tate Modern, London
- Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Director, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai
- Hammad Nasar, Head of Research and Programmes, Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong
- Lars Nittve, Executive Director, M+, Hong Kong
- Kim Rorschach, Director, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle
- Wang Chunchen, Head of Curatorial Research, Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing
The museumification of Asia
China is the centre stage of a growing “museumification” taking place in Asia as Beijing Today Art Museum’s Director Gao Peng told Art Radar. Wang Chunchen from CAFA Museum in Beijing identified up to 3000 new museums in China alone. Ambitious projects for new museums in the Asia region include, as Lowry pointed out, the National Art Museum Of China (NAMOC) in Beijing, the M+ in Hong Kong, the newly opened National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) in Seoul and the National Art Gallery in Singapore. These are only a few among the numerous museums that have either recently opened or are under planning, construction and development.
Click here to view “Museum of the Future” with Glenn Lowry, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Alan Chong on Asia Society’s website.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
- China’s quiet cultural revolution: A guide to 4 art districts – September 2013 – as China’s art scene continues to grow, famous international architects build new contemporary art centres across the country
- 7 art podcasts that take you behind the scenes at the museum – August 2013 – enthusiasts and experts alike get a new resource to feed their hunger for knowledge and information on the arts as more art institutions launch free online podcasts
- Biennial new world? Art Basel Switzerland Salon talk – video – June 2013 – five international curators share their personal experiences on curating biennials at Art Basel Switzerland
- China art museum growth drives collection building – Asia Society video – October 2012 – Melissa Chiu touches on the evolution of Chinese contemporary art, revealing that collection forming is at the forefront
- Asian art museums and social media use: Broader audiences, meaningful engagement – June 2012 –Art Radar explores how museums across Asia utilise social media platforms to reach broader audiences and create meaningful engagements with the public
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