ART BOOK CLUB
THE ART MUSEUM IN MODERN TIMES
By Charles Saumarez Smith
First Published by Thames & Hudson 2021, London
The restrictions implemented as a result of Covid-19 altered the way that we experienced art. Public institutions, galleries and art centres remained absent of the viewers that were essential to the regenerative cycle of art invention, experimentation and collaboration.
This transformed our standardised exhibition framework. Forcing artists and creative thinkers to let go of what were contemporary modes of display, turning to digital platforms or outdoor venues.
Charles Saumarez Smith’s, The Art Museum in Modern Times, could not be more relevant at this time. Though it is a detailing of the 'pre-Covid museum landscape', as James Bradburne has expressed in his endorsement of the text, 'there are few people as perfectly suited to give an overview'.
Saumarez Smith's expertise on the infrastructure of artistic institutions, having had a directorial role in three predominant establishments, details how one's experience of art is influenced largely by the constructs of the space within which it is presented. Smith also traces art’s radical progression from a position that art institutions should direct and educate it’s viewers, to the belief that these structures should focus on designating a space for individual contemplation.
In recent years, the museum and exhibition model, though historically rigid in its traditionalism, has shown an energised capacity for adaptation. Through Smith’s compelling journey to understand the experiences of art and the structures of which it occupies, we ask ourselves the questions of, what might the future of art museums hold in an era of unpredictability? and what role we, as viewers, spectators and facilitators of art, might play in the notable and revolutionary evolution of art institutions to come?
Reviewed by April Jackson & Rie Marsden