Curator, Writer, and Museum Administrator

Books for Curators

"Collecting the New: Museums and Contemporary Art"

Collecting the New: Museums and Contemporary Art, Bruce Altshuler, Editor

To be honest, this book was somewhat disappointing. If features heavy hitters in the mainly American art museum world, like Robert Storr of MOMA, Howard Fox of LACMA, new media curatorial star Steve Dietz, and Lowery Stokes Sims of the Studio Museum. But despite the promising title, the chapters are divided into the same categories that museums have always divided their collections, namely, by media and by cultures. Of this approach, even Altshuler in his intro states, "In fact, new forms of cultural production and new ways of thinking about them, as well as changes connected with globalization and ethnic hybridization, call into question two of the book's central divisions." 

The most intriguing essay turned out to be "Breaking Down Categories: Print Rooms, Drawing Departments, and the Museum" by Christophe Cherix, of the Musee d'art et d'histoire, Geneva. Cherix talks not just about his own museum (another problem with the other essays that tend to read a bit too much like lists of accomplishments) but provides intriguing examples of contemporary art that challenges authorship and authenticity, such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres' stacks of free offset posters, or the dichotomy of prints and drawings as documents or props vs. individual creations of artistic expression as in some of Mel Bochner's work.  

The essays by Chrissie Iles and Henriette Huldisch and by Steve Dietz regarding collecting and preserving film, video, and new media art make me overwhelmingly grateful for the Old Masters who created on relatively inert materials like marble, canvas, etc. I can't imagine what will be left of much new media art, particularly computer/Internet art in 2050. 


Elizabeth Schlatter