Museum directors from around the world, including from the Tate Modern, Museum of Modern Art New York, and the M+ in Hong Kong, came together to discuss how their museums are rethinking the cannon and curating more art from South Asia, on Saturday at the 4th edition of the Dhaka Art Summit.
The panel consisted of Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Frances Morris, director of the Tate Modern, and two others who are currently building a collection from scratch, Doryun Chong, deputy director of M+, Hong Kong, and Sebastian Cichocki, deputy director of the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw.
They discussed how their museums are reorienting their programming and collections to redefine what it means to be a museum and how the institutions can become more globalized and progressive by constantly incorporating new art from around the world.
Director of the Tate Modern, Frances Morris discussed how art acquisition in the modern world needs to be based on three principles: decolonization of art history, responding to media diversity, and gender and diversity. She also spoke extensively on the strategy of acquisition.
Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art, explained the acquisition process of museums: each museum has a different focus and desires a different outcome from their collection, but in modern times, they all want to collect with one broad goal in mind for a truly globalized institution.
Adding to this concept, Doryun Chong said: “The museum is not the building.” Chong elaborated that a museum is a culmination of art, people and ideas. He said that any museum that wants to incorporate international art must first begin with itself and then branch out.
Sebastian Cichocki, the deputy director of the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, a museum and collection still in the making, said that they started their collection with the notion of inheriting certain values, but later started thinking about global issues. Regarding the matter of collecting art from the Southeast, he said that it is a matter of willingness and persistence.
Cichocki said: “We need to rethink the canon. Dismantle it and rebuild it.” He said that he wants his museum to have a real impact on his country and community with the kind of art that they display.
Glenn Lowry agreed with this notion and said that the canon is still a 19 century idea. The solution is to fracture it on purpose and rethink on a global scale. He said that museums need to be perceived as collaborative projects and feature indigenous art from around the world. He also spoke about the importance of partnership when it comes to displaying art. He commented that: “Museums should go on a diet and stop being acquisition machines. ” He highlighted the importance of lending artworks to other art institutions.
Cichocki further said joint acquisitions could benefit many museums. The panel unanimously agreed that there is an expectation from audiences for museums to diversify the canon, as countries now have diverse populations and they want to see themselves being represented in art.