“With the massive social, demographic, technological, and economic shifts that have been radically transforming global society in recent decades, art museums around the world have been managing in environments of significant change,” writes Walker executive director Olga Viso in the introduction to a new white paper. “Struggling with issues of audience relevance, leadership and financial sustainability, museum directors around the world are boldly questioning the future of the art museum.”
That paper — “The Art Museum Today, in Discussion” (pdf), authored by LACMA director Michael Govan — is the result of a March 2013 convening in Aspen, organized by Viso, that brought together 17 museum directors from around the globe, as well as six “outside provocateurs,” to wrestle with the issues museums face today and into the future. The seminar follows work done in 2012 by the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) Futures Task Force, also chaired by Viso, which identified four key issues facing museums:
• changing nature of audiences (demographics and expectations);
• relevance and content of mission statements;
• sustainability of institutional financial models and finding alternative funding/revenue streams;
• sharing authority (tensions between curatorial voice and public voice).
Summarizing the convening’s findings, the paper “reflects a strong embrace of the diversity of museums, the challenges they face, and propositions for their respective futures,” as Viso writes.