Kathy Halbreich: Associate Director, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Griffin, Tim, Artforum International
HAVING COME OF AGE IN THE 1960S, I've been unable to abandon a belief in a certain Utopian imperative. But it was being at Minneapolis's Walker Art Center--a medium sized museum in the middle of the country, with an incredible historical legacy--that first provided me with a platform for thinking about how to materialize this imperative and, more specifically, for asking questions about what the social backbone of such an institution could be. When I became director in 1991,I began to work on joining the inside and the outside, beginning with efforts among the staff and then within the community.
First, I wanted to help people grasp the power of a flat organization governed by a shared mission. I wanted to sec whether some of the class divisions within an institution could be erased, so that, for instance, the extraordinary people who worked in the basement--the so-called crew, many of whom were artists-would know that their voices were important in the galleries. Similarly, I wanted to bridge the gap between administrators and programmers. We were all creative partners, and emphasizing this would, I hoped, make everyone feel deeply engaged in the institution. I also sought to erase any sense that I, as the director, was the embodiment of the institution. In the past, museum directors have been portrayed as these great puppet masters--the person who invents the story, writes the script, and manipulates the characters--and even at Walker, the PR people were apt to say yours must be the hand people shake in order for them to feel connected to the institution. I just never believed that. And this isn't to say that established standards were to be sacrificed, but rather that they were to be debated. The heart and soul of an organization is a discussion of what matters; it is to ask what is meaningful and, moreover, to ask, Whose values are on view, anyway?
Then I began to consider whether that openness could be reflected in our engagements with a wider audience. Museums today are increasingly recognized, I think, as site-specific institutions. Yes, we all have the same deliberations about conservation, about how our collections should be organized, and about what to do regarding financial challenges. (I don't know a single cultural organization that is properly capitalized. …
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Publication information: Article title: Kathy Halbreich: Associate Director, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Contributors: Griffin, Tim - Author. Magazine title: Artforum International. Volume: 48. Issue: 10 Publication date: Summer 2010. Page number: 276+. © 1999 Artforum International Magazine, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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