Why shouldn't museums be for pure pleasure?

Why shouldn't museums be for pure pleasure?

Disneyfication! Theme parks! Museums exploring popular culture, staging sensuous and interactive exhibitions and making use of the commercial opportunities that comes their way, have been called many names the last decade. In an interview with journalist Michael Binyou from the Times, Mark Jones, director of the V&A gives his view on this issue, defending the Kylie exhibition.

What I think is interesting here is the immense threat that popular culture and fun seem to have on traditional museum culture and the very rigorous view that the two cannot exist side by side. It is almost as if fun, enjoyment and light heartiness will contaminate and disrupt a precious ‘pure’ space, which almost reminds me of Carol Duncans notion of the museum as a religious site. What is it that links so tightly the issues of seriousness and professionalism, with silence and hard work (it should not be too easy to go to the museum? This of course opens up for a whole debate around our notion of knowledge and the strenuous ‘path’ to enlightenment, which is also why this issue is so interesting. It also links to the recent discussion here on the blog about the curator/educator/museologist where power and the right to distribute and communicate knowledge seem to be fundamental.


Amy said…
Hi Mette - I get really annoyed at the attitude that pop culture is lightweight, or less meaningful than high, elite art. And Jones is right, it was the V&A's founding mission to select the best examples of design - contemporary too. These things have an impact on our daily lives and say considerably more about 'us' than plaster casts of ancient monuments, for example. So, this idea of dumbing down really gets my goat! So, I would defend the V&A to the absolute hilt. Their approach wouldn't work for all museums, but they are in a unique position to reflect fashion and contemporary culture and should be allowed to do so. And, besides, what is wrong with having fun? And then learning something along the way. Or discovering a new passion for something (even if it is just Kylie's hotpants). I can't see the problem quite frankly! The V&A has style AND substance. And yet there is a perceptable sniffiness in the journalist's tone. I think the general populace has a fixed image of what the museum is, and they are not perceived to be fun places. Which is really sad. But understandable, when so many museums remain dusty, dull and unoriginal monoliths.

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