As part of its superbly meandering ART² detour into questions about “Museums Today,” the Arts Department of the French Embassy has been organizing important debates on the cultural identity of museums in the 21st century. Presented in collaboration with the Institut français, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, and FACE (French American Cultural Exchange), the month-long visual arts festival has been exploring ideas and themes paramount to the international art world, working with 42 partner museums, galleries, universities, and non-profit spaces through the month of April. The endeavor was conceived as a French-American exchange of views centered on issues that drive museums and private foundations alike. Topics of discussion during the Museums Today program included exhibiting collections, new perspectives on art history, the production of contemporary art and opening of satellite museums in an effort to globalize a museum’s presence. Programs have taken place at the Judd Foundation (winner of a 2014 AIANY Design Award), the French Embassy, MoMA and the Guggenheim Museum.
At the Guggenheim’s newly renovated Peter B. Lewis Theater, Sophie Claudel, the French Embassy’s cultural attaché and head of its Arts Department, moderated a panel discussion on satellite museums that included the directors of three major museums building and operating facilities far from their home base. Richard Armstrong, director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, spoke about the Bilbao Effect and how it has changed notions throughout the museum world about global outreach and collection accessibility. Armstrong, who has served as the Guggenheim’s chief since November of 2008, preferred the word “constellation” over “satellites” when describing the relation of different components of the Guggenheim. He also spoke of being “transnational” rather than “universal” in appeal. Talking about how to attract contributors and sponsors, he contrasted the National Gallery’s recent “takeover” of the Corcoran Gallery, across the street from the AIA’s headquarters building in Washington, DC, saying that the Guggenheim “would go to another city in America only if it were utterly irresistible.” Continue reading “Shared Voice: Satellite Culture”