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MUSEUM Intenational N°235
The Stakes of the Collection in the 21st Century

Museum235-Large.gifTable of Contents

Editorial Isabelle Tillerot

Chapter I: Alterity and Philosophy of the Collection

Chapter II: Rethinking Universality

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San Francisco, Mexico, and the Teotihuacan Murals, Kathleen Berrin

A windfall bequest of fragile wall murals, unearthed from the archaeological site of Teotihuacan, set in motion a thirty-year relationship between the nation of Mexico and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.  The San Francisco curator who guided the collection and its related projects looks back on three decades of friendship and collaboration, reflecting on shared achievements and challenges for the future. TOP

Collection and Context in a Cameroonian Village, Steven Nelson

The literature on the collection in Africa usually focuses on those objects that have left the continent for museums in the West. This discussion focuses on two Bamum museum collections in Foumban, Cameroon that explores, both in a colonial and post-colonial context, the complex and complicated issues surrounding collection in this Grasslands village, and how the meanings of the collections have changed since the 1920s. TOP

A Place to Work, Michael Baldwin, Charles Harrison, Mel Ramsden

The artistic practice of Art & Language has its origins in the Conceptual Art movement of the late 1960s, which led to some critical uncertainty regarding the autonomy of painting and sculpture and their centrality to the modern tradition. Since then the relations between artwork and art institution have been increasingly subject to negotiation. As the power of art institutions has come to depend on their ability to present themselves as both liberal and expansive, participating artists have been provided with new career opportunities in cultural management. This paper addresses some consequences, and asks how a qualified resistance might be mounted to the prevailing tendency for public art institutions, rather than private studio undertakings, to determine the form of artists’ work. It is suggested that the solution may lie in the virtual space that a conversational and essayistic practice provides. TOP

Para-Performative Practices and Late Modernism: on contemporary art and the museum, Matthew Jesse Jackson

In the wake of structural transformations in the global artworld, it remains unclear whether the display of the static art object, or even the projection of the moving image, will remain the Museum's principal task. In the coming years, as the Museum finally comes to terms with the expansive legacy of late Modernism, it will likely begin to archive and exhibit a range of "new artistic facts," from the verbal theatrics of the Jackson Pollock Bar's "theory installations" to the para-performative practices of the Artist Historian. TOP

Introductory Remarks on the Notion of Universality, Roland Recht

The universal value of art and the museum, a utopian ideal from the Age of Enlightenment, is analysed by Roland Recht who examines 18th century debates concerning artwork in situ and artwork in museums, the place and function of the monument in the development of an awareness of cultural heritage, the symbolic value specific to the artwork and the role of the museum in its uncertain status of universality. TOP

The Phenomenology of Art: the site of the work of art, the space of the collection, Éric Marion

Today, the collection constitutes the space for the visibility of paintings. However, nothing is perhaps less innocent than their presence within such a space. It can potentially signify a veritable transformation of the artwork itself. An object placed on view for the spectator, the work of art is threatened in its essence. The artwork’s space is not that of objects, but rather the site for the implementation of truth : the advent of presence can be contained within the work of art. The phenomenology of Heidegger and his affinity for the painting of Cezanne provide the opportunity to meditate on the difference and the distance which distinguish a work of art from an object in a collection. TOP

The Museum, a Universal Device, Jean-Louis Déotte

The museum is a technological and institutional invention from the end of the 18th century. Its vocation is universal in contrast with private collections because it invents the public and the free and public exhibition of artworks and artefacts. It is starting from the site of the museum that philosophers like Kant have affirmed a principle of universal equality : all humankind has the same capacity to judge according  to aesthetics. The museum transforms artworks of a sacred nature into opportunities for judgements of taste, which then ceases to be defined a priori. It is not the space for the reproduction of social classes, but on the contrary, the space where everyone can escape from their socio-cultural habitus. TOP

The Ethics of collecting: universality questioned, Cécile Marceau

The museal institution has experienced an unprecedented influence, making it one of the essential vectors for the circulation of cultural property. If the universal vocation appears to be achieved through this global diffusion, the nature of universality must, however, be questioned. Isn’t the ideal of the philosophers from the Age of Enlightenment, who presided over the constitution of universal museums, threatened by a commercialized planetary availability ? TOP

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