Culture Incorporated: Museums, Artists, and Corporate Sponsorships

By Mark W. Rectanus | Go to book overview

6. The Sponsored Museum;
or, The Museum as Sponsor

The museum must redefine the notion of art as property and its valuation in a centralized market-
place of capitalized goods and ideas. The museum must be an open text of possibility, become a
hybrid space and culture engaged in communication and technologies, through projects that
constantly question its ends. In this way the museum can redefine itself for the next millennium
and contribute to the rethinking of art and culture.

—John G. Hanhardt, Acts of Enclosure


Breaking Down the Walls

The museum assumes a central position in the institutional mediation of culture. Andreas Huyssen has identified it as “a key paradigm of contemporary cultural activities” (1995, 14). As a result of its privileged status in cultural representation and mediation, it has become an attractive venue for sponsorships that reinforce the institutional convergence of museum, sponsor, and public cultural policy. We have also observed that the museum provides a staging area for events, for its own public-relations activities, and for corporate or public interests. Indeed, museum culture and event culture may be partially merging. Both are characterized by similar orientations to materiality, immediacy (e.g., “blockbuster” exhibitions), the primacy of visualization (e.g., the “visual character of tourism,” Urry 1995, 140), and, more recently, interactivity between audiences, exhibitions, and technologies as dominant modes of communication.

Thus, contemporary analyses of the museum frequently intersect with notions of event culture. I have suggested that events not only be investigated in terms of problematizing the assumptions of the event itself (which Tschumi relates to architecture), but also with respect to their potential to attract or entertain and simultaneously subvert (i.e., challenge the assumptions of the event). Woodstock and the Wrapped Reichstag provided examples of contemporary events that operated within the modalities of both entertainment and subversion. In his discussion of audience response to the blockbuster exhibits of the 1980s, Huyssen proposes that audience desire be recognized as an inherent component of contemporary culture and be productively integrated into exhibitions and curatorial practices: “It is not exactly a new idea to suggest

-171-

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