Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Art+Climate=Change

Kelly Gellatly, Inconvenient truths about museums and the public good, ArtsHub, 27 June 2016

Why do we rarely see political or agenda-fuelled content in the 21st Century museum? A new book on Art+Climate=Change exposes some answers.

Cover of ART + CLIMATE = CHANGE Guy Abrahams, Kelly Gellatly, Bronwyn Johnson

Cover of ART + CLIMATE = CHANGE by Guy Abrahams, Kelly Gellatly and Bronwyn Johnson.

On balance, museums and galleries within Australia, while happy to support the artist to use the museum as a platform to espouse their own ideas around gender, sexuality, ethnicity, the environment, or local and global politics, seem rather unwilling to initiate or present these agendas themselves, remaining instead within the known, accepted and uncontroversial frameworks of the thematic survey or retrospective exhibition.

Perhaps one of the most subtle and interesting things about ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE—and we can potentially determine this from a glance at the list of organisations that participated—is the manner in which its very clear purpose serves as a provocation to the art museum itself, challenging those of us who work within them to interrogate the expectations we have (or parameters we place) around the work we show and the way we communicate with our audiences, while similarly highlighting the seeming rarity of art exhibitions in which a particular stand or point of view is made, owned and clearly expressed.

So, ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE presents a number of important questions around curatorial practice back to its constituents: those employed in the visual arts as curators, programmers and producers. Why are we afraid, for example, to engage in and encourage debate within our work of exhibition-making and to effectively, and bravely, put our heads above the parapet when needed?

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