Museum Definition: Could Museums Take Stands?
What are museums in today’s defintion?
In 2007, the ICOM (International Council of Museums) Statutes has adopted the definition of museum for the international museum community as ‘a non-profit, permanent institution in the service of society and its development, open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity and its environment for the purposes of education, study and enjoyment’.
It is concrete that museums are no longer Cabinets of Curiosities traced back to Renaissance period. They are no longer places simply for objects to be stored and exhibited. We now ask questions about museum’s identities like What are the social responsibilities and duties that museums should take?; Do museums hold the authority to define art?; What could the public expect from the institution?.
Today, we will take two recent news from Design Museum in London and the Met in New York as examples and discuss whether museums could take stands. And further, how the two museums perceive their ‘charity’ identity differently.
Design Museum in London — Hope to Nope vs Nope to Arms
Hope to Nope: Graphics and Politics 2008–18 is the current exhibition in London Design Museum. It features graphic design and technology that reacted to important political moments throughout the decade. Due to a sponsorship between the arms dealer Leonardo and the museum, over one-third of the artworks from the activist party were removed from the exhibition after their request and petition Nope to Arms. As a result, the exhibition is now free to visit.
As an educational charity, we cannot take an overt political stance as some activists would like us to do. Recent events have shown us that breaching the laws that regulate charities could put us at risk of having our charitable status removed. In a statement today the Charity Commission reminded the charities sector that, “educational charities can play an important role in informing the public. The law is clear, however, that they must do so in a balanced and neutral way. There are clear rules for charities regarding political activity that form a key part of both charity law and public expectations.”
Deyan Sudjic and Alice Black, directors of the Design Museum, the executives explained in the statement that since they should maintain neutral as ‘an educational charity’. Since no political stance should be taken, the museum would maintain their relationship with Leonardo.
The Met in New York — charity vs social justice
According to the invitation by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has served as an anchor organization alongside New York University’s Tisch School of Arts for social practice art.
We’re not an institution that just focuses on charity. We need to be an institution that focuses on justice. There is a real distinction between charity and social justice: I think ‘charity’ is a term that makes us feel comfortable at a cocktail hour. But when you’re talking about justice you’re actually talking about how you right a wrong. For us, being able to dive deep into this work fits with that…At this moment in our country’s history, we need to dive deeper and look at what social justice and social practice in the arts look like.
In 2016, Dorian Burton, assistant executive director of the William R. Kenan Jr. Trust made a cold call to Kemi Ilesanmi, the executive director of the Laundromat Project, a New York City-based nonprofit that brings art to unexpected places. That was how this act for social justice by art started and now turned out to be a $6 million program.
Two months ago, the Met has announced that they would use $1.5 million of the Kenan Trust grant to support an artist residency program dedicated to social change.
What about the justice within the artist community?
The current art market is in some ways biased on different grounds where many talented artists are not granted the chance they deserve. Justice within the artists community starts when everyone can share their art freely regardless of their identities.
The start-up online gallery BBuzzArt is a liberal platform which support equal opportunities. Through the online system, any young and emerging artists can submit their works to BBuzzArt and get exposed to the world. The website is user-friendly for both artists and collectors. If you wish to join us to create a more ideal art world with equal opportunities, go to our website and learn more.
Buzzing Art, Budding Artist. www.bbuzzart.com