'What should an art museum be?'

'What should an art museum be?' May 18 2022 Picture: Thames and Hudson Regular readers will doubtless already have a copy of Charles Saumarez Smith's new book, 'The Art Museum in Modern Times'. Here he is in a new podcast discussing the subject more broadly, not only on how architecture can help shape a museum's core purpose, but what an art museum should be. Charles is very sound on these issues, but the use of architecture in a museum can be (in my museumgoer's view) a tricky balance to strike. Nowadays there seems to be too much emphasis on building vast, expensive (and usually empty) atriums, which are seen as essential to luring visitors in. This is not to say that front doors - that is, entry spaces in general - are unimportant, and not worth getting right. For many people (disabled visitors, those on the autistic spectrum, and perhaps even just the timid) a sensitively designed museum entrance can be vitally important. There's a good phrase they use in retail which is just as applicable to the museum world; 'threshold resistance'. And yet, if anything the craze for swanky new entrances these days manifests itself in the kind of bright, loud entrances that may put off these minority groups. If you want to bring in new audiences, AHN believes it's better to spend the museum's money on a decent website and digital outreach instead.

'What should an art museum be?'

'What should an art museum be?'

May 18 2022

Image of 'What should an art museum be?'

Picture: Thames and Hudson

Regular readers will doubtless already have a copy of Charles Saumarez Smith's new book, 'The Art Museum in Modern Times'. Here he is in a new podcast discussing the subject more broadly, not only on how architecture can help shape a museum's core purpose, but what an art museum should be.

Charles is very sound on these issues, but the use of architecture in a museum can be (in my museumgoer's view) a tricky balance to strike. Nowadays there seems to be too much emphasis on building vast, expensive (and usually empty) atriums, which are seen as essential to luring visitors in.

This is not to say that front doors - that is, entry spaces in general - are unimportant, and not worth getting right. For many people (disabled visitors, those on the autistic spectrum, and perhaps even just the timid) a sensitively designed museum entrance can be vitally important. There's a good phrase they use in retail which is just as applicable to the museum world; 'threshold resistance'. And yet, if anything the craze for swanky new entrances these days manifests itself in the kind of bright, loud entrances that may put off these minority groups.

If you want to bring in new audiences, AHN believes it's better to spend the museum's money on a decent website and digital outreach instead.