One thing it can do — that museums can do — is clear an alternative space in that culture, a zone of moral inquiry, intellectual contrariness, crazy beauty. In this space, artists can simultaneously hold a magnifying glass up to something called “America” and also train a telescope on it: probe its innards and view it from afar, see it as others see it. From these perspectives, they might come up with models of a cosmopolitan, leveled-out society for a country in solidarity with the world, in contrast to the provincial, hierarchical, self-isolating one that exists today.Also in the Times, a nice report on the Grand Rapids Museum of Art, a new building project expected to get a rare gold LEED rating for green building practices.
The New York Times' Holland Cotter writes an excellent piece on art museums, where "money is like white noise, so there that you forget it’s there." He cites the building boom in expansion-crazy American institutions, concluding (I think correctly) that "the more successful a museum grows, the more elitist it tends to become." But among the criticisms -- of the crowd-pleasing Picasso shows making the rounds and of conditions that result in curators serving as "personal shoppers to the collectors who swarm through the art fairs" -- is an understated and realistic glimpse of what museums can do. Not a lot, for sure, but something: