Sunday, January 3, 2021

Sharing Art During Covid

I have been struggling to find art subjects to write about during these 9 months of shut down. Then I found this headline in “PLEASE REMAIN IN YOUR VEHICLE WHILE VIEWING ART. A drive-through exhibition in a commercial parking lot in Mexico City brings together over 30 works by more than 20 contemporary artists.”  Obviously, this is not ideal, and the works would have to be of a certain size, but what an innovative idea.  If I were there, I would definitely drive through.

Photo Michelle Baran

The U.S. government seems to think that the arts are not essential and even though some might disagree we have to appreciate that if the current Administration has little interest in the health of the population, at least a number of local governments do.  Be that as it may, art institutions are doing the best they can to keep the arts alive and retain the interest of their public. Otherwise, it is “out of sight, out of mind”.

I am on the board of our main venue for concerts and other theater events.  Amazingly, thanks to the generosity of our community they have done almost as well financially as in a year where they can collect revenue.  But that cannot be expected annually. Museums and ot    her forms of the arts have made great efforts to provide online programming for free, but they may have to put up paywalls, so that,like Netflix and Prime Video, people will have to pay for entertainment on their home screens.  While we are missing a whole lot by not seeing the original and not being able to enjoy it with others, we may be paying less than the price of an admission ticket.  When the institutions finally reopen additional people from all over the world will be able to join in for online tours of exhibitions bringing in a new revenue stream.

Even major museums such as the Metropolitan Museum in New York that are beginning to open can only have 25% capacity. Of course, when you have 2.2 million square feet it allows 2,000 people per hour to enter, and with so few tourists you won’t don’t have to worry about crowds!

From the Irish Times

We recently donated a Hopi Concho Belt to the Metropolitan Museum.  We told them that we had an excellent packing service here in Santa Fe, Pak Mail, which specializes in Indian art and serves our famed annual Indian Market. But the Met insisted on sending the art shipping service they normally deal with, at greater cost.  At least they did not require a courier! 

When there is a major work of art to travel museums will usually send a curator or someone on the registrar’s staff to accompany the work of art.  That individual may ride in the main cabin of the plane, but they are on the tarmac when the work of art is placed in the cargo hold and there again when it is taken off.  If the work is on a truck the courier rides with the driver. I have never understood why an individual needs to accompany the art because what will a curator or registrar do when confronted by an armed group? However, my wife, the curator, insists that they can spot and avoid hazardous conditions. What to do in the age of Covid?  Like everything else, virtual solutions must be found. Tracking devices can be packed with the art and via Zoom curators can watch de-installation and re-installation.

The issue of deaccessioning (selling works of art from the museum’s collection) has always been a thorny one.  The Association of Art Museum Directors has traditionally only sanctioned it in order to make possible acquisition that would improve the collection.  Well, in April of this year they changed that rule slightly by saying that museums would not be sanctioned for selling to pay for “the direct care” of the collections, and that they would rely on the museum’s good faith in enhancing the life of the works and thus benefitting the public.

Dare I say that the art world working together is managing to stay in business. Looking to the future the use of virtual Zoom couriers can reduce the prohibitive cost of sending and receiving of loans of works for exhibitions. Online programming can broaden the reach of museums and theaters. Additional innovations for fund raising, prompted by the pandemic shutdown, are just waiting in the wings.

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