In this article you’ll learn how a museum repositioned itself with a new concept to setup an African art exhibition, taking a prominent position in a new city, to create a “boutique museum” experience, and new ways to get the word out about the museum’s educational offerings and exhibits.
Espresso was the first thing on Julian Zugazagoitia’s mind.
During a chat last week over a cup of regular coffee in the Bloch Building café, the topic came up more than once, suggesting that under its new director the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s first new acquisition might be an espresso machine.
Zugazagoitia officially will begin his duties on Wednesday, but he has spent the last few weeks getting his family settled in a new house and taking his two children to movies. He and his wife were stunned, he said, at paying $16 admission for four to a matinee, when he’s accustomed to paying almost four times that much for a movie outing in New York.
Zugazagoitia now faces the getting-to-know-you onslaught that comes with taking a prominent position in a new city. The next two months will bring a whirlwind of meetings with Nelson staff and members of the community. He already has learned that Kansas Citians take great pride in the Nelson-Atkins, but they “don’t necessarily feel the urgency to visit.”
So, he wonders, “How can an institution reposition itself?”
A few days before he begins his new job, Zugazagoitia is not ready to talk details. Nevertheless, he is already thinking about how to create a “boutique museum” experience within the Nelson’s vast collections and new ways to get the word out about the museum’s educational offerings and exhibits.
On a broader level, he says, “What are the messages that have to be out there?” and how does he go about making art “more relevant to visitors and people who don’t visit?”
Zugazagoitia tends not to think of the museum’s audience in terms of various constituencies — Latinos, African-Americans, artists, etc. — requiring programs that speak specifically to them, but hopes to engage all groups with the universal values present in a wide range of art.
Over the long term, Zugazagoitia envisions the museum as “a civic place of encounter and a place of encounter with authenticity,” but he doesn’t believe dramatic changes will be required to get there.
Rather, he plans to do “small things to change the perception of who we are” and is pleased with some of the “small things” museum curators and exhibit designers have initiated in recent months.
One was providing small magnifying glasses to visitors to last year’s Mughal miniature show, an interactive touch that swelled attendance. It “was a tool to slow the pace,” Zugazagoitia observed, and it’s a strategy he’d like to try again.
Another was the decision to perform conservation work on Monet’s “Water Lilies” in public view. What Zugazagoitia calls a “behind the scenes look” generated an enthusiastic response.
This fall, during the run of two ticketed exhibitions, “Through African Eyes” and “Romancing the West,” the museum will experiment with free admission to the shows on Thursday nights.
“My only mandate from the board is to try new things,” Zugazagoitia said.
In conversation, it’s clear that Zugazagoitia brings a new sense of immediacy to the museum’s role.
“We’re here to serve as a showcase of what’s happening internationally,” he said, and went on to talk about the Nelson doing an exhibit of “the hottest thing in Berlin,” as if it were nothing unusual.
And of course it would be, especially after years of slowed programming during construction of the Bloch Building.
And speaking of the Bloch Building, Zugazagoitia does not look askance at the prospect of finally placing some art in the lobby lens. During a night visit with a friend to view the building after dark, he was struck by the absence of art.
Zugazagoitia said he has already had a talk with architect Steven Holl about making a change — and it would be a big one.
At night, there would be something to see besides the glowing façade. By day, one might look through the windows and see people clustered around a work of art, instead of an empty space patrolled by lonely uniformed guards.
Posted on Fri, Aug. 27, 2010
Please leave your thoughts below in the comment section, and tell us how you do show your objects in your home and let more people know about your collection..
|Through African Eyes MAY 20, 2010 THURSDAY PODCAST Guests:|
- Detroit Institute of Art
- Through African Eyes
- New York Times review of the exhibition
Nii O. Quarcoopome…