As the New Museum controversy rages on, people are finally asking questions that we should periodically be asking of our arts institutions. The reason they haven’t come up before was probably because for the last six years we were all too busy watching the art market swallow the art world.
Well, now is as good a time as any to republish this inspiring paragraph from the new third edition of Karsten Schubert book titled The Curator’s Egg: The evolution of the museum concept from the French Revolution to the present day (emphasis mine):
The museum [aka Louvre] was to play a central role in the formation and development of the new society; yet when it opened to the public on August 10, 1793, the first anniversary of the Republic, none of this was obvious from the displays. They looked suspiciously pre-Revolutionary and resembled, in the words of the playwright Gabriel Bouquier, ‘the luxurious apartments of satraps and the great, the voluptuous boudoirs of courtesans, the cabinets of the self-styled amateurs’. A few months later Jacques-Jacques David elaborated the point: ‘The museum is not supposed to be a vain assemblage of frivolous luxury objects that serve only to satisfy idle curiosity. What it must be is an imposing school.’ It seems that from the outset the museum and its critique went hand in hand.
More thoughts to follow.