Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

Five museum directors

Light Show, an exhibition of illuminated works by 22 artists organised by the Hayward Gallery in London.

Javier Pes, It’s not all about attendance: five museum directors on how they measure success, The Art Newspaper, 31 March 2016

Exhibition programming is an unpredictable business when institutions take some risks.

Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Dali, Warhol: some artists’ names all but guarantee that an exhibition will be a hit at the box office. More often, however, museums have little idea how audiences will respond to shows. They must weigh up the risk that an artist or subject with a specialised appeal will attract the few, not the many.

We asked five directors with years of experience in the unpredictable exhibition business about how to measure success, when to take a leap of faith on a show and what to do when external events overtake their best-laid plans.

Ralph Rugoff
Director of the Hayward Gallery, London

Three years ago, the Hayward Gallery in London organised Light Show, an exhibition of illuminated works by 22 artists. The sold-out show had no takers from other venues before it opened. Today, it is still touring. “It’s in a ship on its way to Chile to go on show in Santiago in May,” Rugoff says. It is difficult to accurately predict the popularity of exhibitions, apart from those featuring a handful of blockbuster names, he says. “We all want people to see shows, but the total number of people who went is just one metric.” Rugoff stresses the quality of visitors’ encounters with art. “If 20,000 people each spent two hours in a show, that’s [worth] more than if 100,000 each spent only 20 minutes,” he says. Then there is the “ripple effect” of an exhibition that “makes you think about a question differently or produce an idea”, which is no less valid “but is impossible to track”.

Read more

Council of Australasian Museum Directors, c/o Ms Daryl Karp, Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House PO Box 3934 Manuka, Australian Capital Territory 2603 Australia, © CAMD 2021
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for information purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. No claim is made as to the accuracy or authenticity of the content of the website. The Council of Australasian Museum Directors does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or the use of such information or advice) which is provided on this website. The information on our website is provided on the basis that all persons accessing the site undertake responsibility for assessing the relevance and accuracy of its content. No responsibility is taken for any information or services which may appear on any linked web sites. Hostgator.
.