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The Future of the Museum: 28 Dialogues

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London, October, 22nd 2020 - As museums shuttered during the 2020 novel-coronavirus pandemic, New York-based author and cultural strategist András Szántó conducted a series of virtual conversations with international museum leaders. At this pivotal moment, the directors spoke candidly about the challenges and untapped potential of art museums.

What emerges from the 28 dialogues-all conducted during the global pandemic, between May and August 2020-is a composite portrait of a generation of museum leaders working to move away from old models and make art institutions more open, inclusive, experiential, culturally polyphonic, technologically savvy, attuned to the needs of their communities, and engaged in the defining issues of our time. Today's institutions are transforming into places of gathering, community, and debate, expanding their role well beyond the traditional functions of the art museum.

From Cape Town to Moscow to São Paulo to Singapore
Marion Ackermann (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden), Cecilia Alemani (The High Line, New York), Anton Belov (Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow), Meriem Berrada(MACAAL, Marrakesh), Daniel Birnbaum (Acute Art, London), Thomas P. Campbell (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco), Tania Coen-Uzzielli (Tel Aviv Museum of Art), Rhana Devenport (Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide), María Mercedes González (Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín), Max Hollein (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Sandra Jackson-Dumont (Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, Los Angeles), Mami Kataoka (Mori Art Museum, Tokyo), Brian Kennedy (Peabody Essex Museum, Salem), Koyo Kouoh (Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town), Sonia Lawson (Palais de Lomé), Adam Levine (Toledo Museum of Art), Victoria Noorthoorn (Museo de Arte Moderno de Buenos Aires), Hans Ulrich Obrist (Serpentine Galleries, London), Anne Pasternak (Brooklyn Museum), Adriano Pedrosa (MASP, São Paulo), Suhanya Raffel (M+ Museum, Hong Kong), Axel Rüger (Royal Academy of Arts, London), Katrina Sedgwick (Australian Center for the Moving Image, Melbourne), Franklin Sirmans (Pérez Art Museum Miami), Eugene Tan (National Gallery Singapore & Singapore Art Museum), Philip Tinari (UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing), Marc-Olivier Wahler (Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Geneva), and Marie-Cécile Zinsou (Musée de la Fondation Zinsou, Ouidah).

The Future of the Museum reflects a rapidly growing, changing, and varied museum landscape in which dynamic experimentation is happening worldwide, with institutions in Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Australia often leading the way in developing new models. It is a sector experiencing a moment of reckoning about inequality and social justice, pressed to achieve more diversity in staffing, governance, programming, interpretation, and collections. Meanwhile, the pandemic has exposed the underlying weakness of many museums' temporary-exhibition-driven business models, as well as the limits of public and private support. The dialogues reveal the diverse ways in which the search is on for new sources of income, new ways to engage the public, new ways to run institutions.

The wide-ranging conversations-each one highlighting a specific issue in museum practice, ranging from "Community" and "Equity" to "De-Westernization" and "Immersive Experiences"-offer glimpses of how museums are undergoing a phase of reinvention in the wake of the pandemic. Collectively, Szántó writes, the dialogues make a case for "a more responsive, empathetic, public-facing museum," which the current generation of leaders is tasked with bringing to life.

Among the themes that are explored in depth:
Insiders' view: A survey of the museum field in the words of its own leaders, this is a practitioner's handbook showcasing the defining trends of the museum sector in a moment of reset, along with practical insights into the daily work of art museums.

Innovations: The dialogues highlight how institutions are testing new approaches to curation, audience engagement, technology, equity and inclusion, learning, and storytelling, revealing a sector that is more dynamic than commonly perceived. Examples range from co-working space at ACMI to a brand-collaboration unit at UCCA Beijing to the Fondation Zinsou, in Benin, where the country's leading pop singers are invited to write tunes for radio broadcast about the latest exhibitions.

Responses to the legacies of colonialism, racism, and injustice: The killing of George Floyd happened while the interviews for this book were being conducted. Museums are coming to terms with their roles in perpetuating systemic racism and social injustice, and launching initiatives such as the Pérez Art Museum Miami's Art Detectives series, in which kids from underserved communities look at art together with policemen to see why they are seeing it differently; or the Brooklyn Museum's collaboration with the Center for Court Innovation, which allows youths who have committed minor infractions to take classes in the museum to clear their records. Meanwhile, institutions owning artifacts from formerly colonized countries are reckoning with the ways they have benefited from colonial plunder, with many Western museums adopting a posture of openness in regard to the repatriation of cultural heritage.

The view from Africa: Africa is one of the most dynamic frontiers of museum-making today. Four women directors of recently established institutions in Benin, Morocco, South Africa and Togo are featured in the book, each one pursuing original and innovative agendas.

Born between 1960 and 1986, averaging 49 years of age, the featured museum leaders are responsible for some four dozen institutions and affiliates, with a combined annual in-person pre-pandemic visitation of more than 36 million people and collections totaling well over 7 million objects. Half of them are women.

Szántó writes in the book's introductory essay: "As one reads though the dialogues, a distinctive and more or less unifying philosophy emerges about what an art museum is and what it should aspire to be." He concludes, "If the late twentieth century ushered in a liberating pluralism in art and cultural expression, it can only be hoped that the twenty-first century will do the same for the institutions of art. This sense of open possibility would be the ultimate guarantor of the enduring strength and relevance of the museum form."

The Future of the Museum: 28 Dialogues will be published in Europe November 30, 2020 and available in distribution in the United States and worldwide from January 2021.

András Szántó, PhD, advises museums, foundations, educational institutions, and leading brands worldwide on cultural strategy. He is a widely published author and editor whose writings have appeared in the New York Times, Artforum, the Art Newspaper, and many international publications. He has directed the National Arts Journalism Program at Columbia University and has overseen the Global Museum Leaders Colloquium at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Szántó has been conducting conversations with art-world leaders since the early 1990s, including as a frequent moderator of the Art Basel Conversations series. Born in Budapest, Hungary, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Hatje Cantz is a groundbreaking international publishing company specializing in art, architecture, and photography. Since 1945 Hatje Cantz has been using its profound expertise and enthusiasm for craftsmanship to produce and publish books of the highest quality. We currently release around 150 new titles annually. Especially in the digital age, Hatje Cantz regards itself an element linking museums, artists, galleries, collectors, and art lovers. Conveying knowledge-in terms of both content and visuals-as well as an enthusiasm for art are always at the heart of our engagement. In keeping with our ambition to make it possible to experience art beyond the medium of the book, Hatje Cantz has launched the EDITION HATJE CANTZ as we continue to expand our portfolio of strictly limited, signed editions featuring works on paper, photographic works of art, and art objects.

Softcover, 320 pages, in English, with illustrations.

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