– Autumn/Winter 2013

Taking Part in the Museum

Sabine Breitwieser

Grand Openings, Grand Openings Return of the Blogs, 2011. Installation view, Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photograph: © Werner Kaligofsky. Courtesy the artists Grand Openings, Grand Openings Return of the Blogs, 2011. Installation view, Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium, The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photograph: © Werner Kaligofsky. Courtesy the artists

‘It only required a very small bribe to secure the settee in the Bordone Room forever’, we are told by Reger, one of the protagonists of Thomas Bernhard’s Old Masters: A Comedy (1985).1 For over thirty years, Reger has spent alternate mornings in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna looking at Tintoretto’s Ritratto di vecchio dalla barba bianca (White-Bearded Man, 1564). ‘At the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Reger finds what he does not find anywhere else ... everything that is important, everything that is useful to his thinking and to his work’, explains a friend, who regularly watches him there, deep in contemplation.2 The art lover is prepared to make a financial contribution to ensure he can indulge his passion uninterrupted: the beneficiary is museum attendant Irrsigler, with whom he ‘maintains an entirely amicable relationship’.3 Their understanding is so solid that ‘Reger need only give a hand signal and Irrsigler blocks the Bordone Room, indeed he does not shrink from pushing any visitors already in the Bordone Room out of the Bordone Room’.4

In the mid-1980s, when Bernhard’s description of an exclusive, undisturbed appreciation of art is set, numerous European

  1. Thomas Bernhard, Old Masters: A Comedy (trans. Ewald Osers), London: Quartet, 1989, p.2.

  2. Ibid., p.8.

  3. Ibid., p.3.

  4. Ibid.

  5. Until the 1990s, the Egyptian and Near Eastern collections of Vienna’s Kunsthistorisches Museum did not have artificial lighting in all areas and often closed at dusk (i.e. in the afternoon during winter); this was also the case for the museum's Greek and Roman Antiquities collection until 2005.

  6. In 2008, Richard Armstrong took over from Krens as director, although the latter continues to oversee the construction of the Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi. Some of the Guggenheim's outposts, such as the Guggenheim Las Vegas and the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum, also in Las Vegas, and recently the Deutsche Guggenheim, in Berlin, have closed in the interim (in 2003, 2008 and 2013 respectively).

  7. Both the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi are designed by Frank Gehry, while the Guggenheim Hermitage Museum and the Guggenheim Las Vegas were designed by Rem Koolhaas.

  8. For a few years now, visitors coming to simply enjoy the view have had to buy a specific ticket to access the top floors of the walkway.

  9. 2007 Pritzker Architecture Prize jury, quoted in Robin Pogrebin, ‘British Architect Wins 2007 Pritzker Prize’, The New York Times, 28 March 2007, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/ 03/28/arts/design/28cnd-pritzker.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&hp&adxnnlx=1373074811- nuHDkr5OIwH8mY5cQaqUCw (last accessed on 22 July 2013).

  10. Andrea Fraser, ‘Isn't This a Wonderful Place? A Tour of a Tour of the Guggenheim Bilbao’, in Alexander Alberro (ed.), Museum Highlights: The Writings of Andrea Fraser, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2005, p.232.

  11. ‘The first that actually made me catch my breath’, ‘I love it’ and ‘I want to continue to support its effort to educate and make our lives better’, for example, reflect the general tenor of statements made by supporters of the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MoMA) through its membership programme; these were circulated by the museum in a 2012 mailing to encourage others to follow in their footsteps. Similar slogans can be found on the museum’s website, available at https://www.moma.org/support/ support_the_museum/donate_online?ref=af-2013 (last accessed on 22 July 2013).

  12. Catherine Wood, Curator of Contemporary Art and Performance at Tate Modern, used this term at the symposium ‘Performance Year Zero: A Living History’, Tate Modern, London, 6 October 2012. This event was part of ‘The Tanks: Art in Action’, a fifteen-week programme of performance and events in the building’s former oil tanks, which marked Tate’s commitment to live art, as well as gathering momentum for the museum’s expansion, with a new adjacent building due in December 2016.

  13. In fact, the Bordone gallery is pure fiction: there is no gallery named after the painter Paris Bordone at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.

  14. T. Bernhard, Old Masters, op. cit., p.29.

  15. Ibid., p.10. Reger also writes music reviews for The Times.

  16. Here we should recall that some earlier museum concepts (such as those developed as early as the 1920s by Alexander Dorner at the Kestner Gesellschaft, Hannover, or in the 50s by Willem Sandberg at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, to cite just two examples) did indeed adopt a different modus operandi with respect to contemporary artists, incorporating collaborations with artists into their programmes. Entire museums have even been founded as a result of donations by contemporary artists, such as the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, which was initiated by members of the artists’ group a.r. See http://msl.org.pl/en/strony/_history/ (last accessed on 22 July 2013).

  17. In a similar development, over the last few years a number of museums have opened up to formerly marginalised art, to art outside Eurocentric and US-centric canons and to artists with feminist agendas or from LGBT backgrounds, which pose an equal, if not indeed greater, challenge to the form in which art history has been framed to date.

  18. Allan Kaprow, ‘Foreword’, in Allan Kaprow (exh. cat.), Pasadena: Pasadena Art Museum, 1967, p.3.

  19. ‘Hans Hoffmann and His Students’ was a 1963 travelling group exhibition organised by the Circulating Exhibitions Department at MoMA; it included six paintings by Hoffman and one work each by fifty of his former students. Kaprow’s environment was presented for one day, on 17 April 1963, at a warehouse in Manhattan. After this premiere, the work existed in the form of a score that was interpreted and performed at each of the hosting institutions of the touring exhibition.

  20. A. Kaprow, Assemblage, Environments and Happenings, New York: N. H. Abrams, 1966, p.320; available at http://www.medienkunstnetz.de/works/push-and-pull/images/4/ (last accessed on 22 July 2013).

  21. Paul Chan in an email to the author in the course of preparations for the symposium ‘How Are We Performing Today? New Formats, Places and Practices of Performance-Related Art’, organised by the author on 16—17 November 2012 at MoMA, New York.

  22. Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, ‘The Shape of Memory: The Museum and Its Collections’, unpublished paper presented at the annual conference of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM), New York, 16—18 November 2008.

  23. Examples that served as an inspiration include Gerry Schum's ‘Television Gallery’ (1968—73); the Centro de Arte y Comunicación (CAYC), founded in 1968 in Buenos Aires; and ‘TV Lab’ at New York's WNET/Channel 13 station (1972). Electronic Arts Intermix, founded in 1972 in New York, and Video Data Bank, founded in 1976 in Chicago — two leading video distributors — also came out of this movement.

  24. Renée Green’s MoMA Media Lounge was installed on the second floor of the museum, in the corridor leading to the Cullman Education Building, in a test stage from February to May 2012 and in its final form from then until July 2013. The project was organised by the author together with Erica Papernik, Assistant Curator at MoMA.

  25. The core group of Grand Openings comprises Ei Arakawa, Jutta Koether, Jay Sanders, Emily Sundblad and Stefan Tcherepnin. The project was organised by the author together with Jenny Schlenzka, Assistant Curator for Performance, MoMA.

  26. Excerpt from the printouts written by Grand Openings and glued onto the calendar displayed at the MoMA atrium for the duration of Grand Openings Return of the Blogs (20 July—1 August 2011).

  27. This project was organised by the author in conjunction with Ana Janevski, Associate Curator, and Jill A. Samuels, Performance Producer, both at MoMA. The author would like to thank the entire MoMA team, in particular Ramona Bannayan, Director of Exhibitions, and Maria de Marco, Coordinator, for their joint implementation of the project.

  28. I am thinking here of Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Author as Producer’, his 1934 speech at the Institute for the Study of Fascism in Paris, and in particular of his call for an ‘operating writer’ in Sergei Tretyakov's sense of the term. See W. Benjamin, ‘The Author as Producer’ (trans. Anna Bostock), Understanding Brecht, London and New York: Verso, 2003, pp.85—105.

  29. ‘In Conversation: Martha Rosler with Sabine Breitwieser’, available at http://www.moma.org/ interactives/exhibitions/2012/garagesale/qa (last accessed on 22 July 2013).

  30. Ibid.

  31. Combatant Status Review Tribunals, pp.002954–003064: A Public Reading was presented at MoMA in conjunction with the exhibition of the video installation 9 Scripts from a Nation at War (2007), authored by the same group of artists, from 25 January to 6 August 2012. The public readings took place in the Bauhaus-staircase area (12—13 November 2011) and in the atrium (27—28 April 2012). The author co-organised the first staging with J. Schlenzka and the second with A. Janevski.

  32. See, for example, Molly Torsen and Jane Anderson, Intellectual Property and the Safeguarding of Traditional Cultures: Legal Issues and Practical Options for Museums, Libraries and Archives, Geneva: World Intellectual Property Organization, 2010. The author would like to thank Dr. Anderson, Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst — Centre for Heritage and Society Department of Anthropology, for this reference and for making available other relevant literature.