The digital world: It’s been great for everyone! Well, unless you work in the record industry. Or for a newspaper. Or you’re a cable TV provider. Or, possibly in the near future, if you’re a museum curator.
What, you may ask, does the economic disruptions of the internet and similar technologies have to do with an august profession like curating? Maybe nothing. But recently, the Brooklyn Museum announced plans to reformulate its entrance pavilion and lobby area that promise to usher in a brave new realm of museum-going.
Spearheaded by Brooklyn design firm SITU Studio, the idea is to transform the mere act of walking through the door and buying a ticket into an digitally interactive “experience,” mainly through the installation of “an assemblage of reconfigurable modular furniture designed to connect staff with visitors” Just how such smart seating takes form is a little hard to visualize at this point; easier to envision is a new mobile app that will allow users to easily access museum information.
But the museum plans also include the implementation of tracking technology throughout the building, so that, among other things, “museum staff can see what works of art visitors are near.” This, actually, is nothing new.
According to an article in The Hedgehog Review (a site dedicated to “Making sense of cultural change”) The Guggenheim and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have already deployed smartphone data-minig and “digital beacons”—wireless transmitters—that can determine which works of art attract the most attention. And here we get to the potential impact on curating: If a museum can easily rate the most popular artworks on view, why bother with the curatorial expertise needed for hanging art?
This all may be making a mountain out of a molehill. Still, it’s bad enough that contemporary art has become little more than an investment-grade asset. However, by its own admission, the Brooklyn Museum is taking its “cue from retail and the hospitality sector.” Sheesh. But this, too, might become commonplace: The Hedgehog article speculates that the time may arrive when a coupon for a cappuccino in the museum café pops up on your phone while you’re lingering in front of a Caravaggio. The next thing you know, it’ll be discounts for plastic surgery in front of a Van Gogh.
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