Leading Museums, Museum Leaders


Sally Pryor ‘Director of MOMA in New York says museum faces same problems as others’, The Canberra Times, 28 October 2014

It’s one of the most influential modern art galleries in the world in a country famous for its philanthropic tradition, but the New York Museum of Modern Art faces many of the same challenges as any art museum.

So says its director, Glenn Lowry, who will be in Canberra this week to speak about the famed institution at the National Gallery of Australia’s annual lecture.

Entitled Rethinking MoMA in the 21st Century, the talk will cover the recent architectural, intellectual and program changes now taking place there.

Mr Lowry, who has been at MoMA’s helm for almost 20 years, said while the museum would never have the challenge of attracting visitors, its mandate still involved engaging the art-going public on several levels.

“We’re lucky enough to be in a very big city with a lot of residents and a lot of tourists, but the challenges remain similar,” he said of the privately funded institution in the heart of Manhattan.

“I think there are obviously differences in funding, and of course that has an impact on how one relates to trustees and government. But the issues of engaging visitors, creating a vibrant intellectual atmosphere within the museum, embracing both immediate and distant communities – those I think are common for most museums.”

He said the legendary philanthropy that allowed many American institutions to thrive was not nearly as beneficial as it seemed.

“You have to remember, we have a culture of individual support for the arts, but what we lack is a culture of federal support for the arts, and I think there’s always a tendency to see the grass as being greener on the other side,” he said.

“So all of my colleagues who are from Australia and even Europe, who love the idea of the American system, forget that with that system, there’s an enormous amount of uncertainty. There’s no guarantee on Monday that you’re going to have the support you had the day before.”

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