Warren Buffett likes to say that when the tide goes out, you see who’s been swimming naked. That maxim would seem to be very apt when it comes to the world of museums according to Robin Pogrebin’s piece in the New York Times on the excesses of the presumed “Bilboa Effect.” Here she quotes D. Carroll Joynes, a senior fellow at the University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center:
In Mr. Joynes’s view, “The recession is exposing the weakness of a lot of institutions that were seriously overstretched” before it began. “It’s exposing poor management and poor planning,” said Mr. Joynes, who is collaborating on a study of 50 cultural building projects completed from 1994 to 2008 and the planning processes behind them. These were situations, he added, in which “nobody actually asked, ‘Is there a need here? If they build it, will they come?’ ” […]
The economic downturn has had this effect on a lot of arts organizations, said Adrian Ellis, the executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center and the founder of AEA Consulting, a leading arts consultant.
“Cultural buildings became the way in which cities articulate their identity and vitality — they were driven not by the artistic community but by a civic agenda,” he said. Now the economy is pushing organizations into “deep reflection about what their purpose is and how best to realize it,” he said — reflection that can lead back to an arts-focused agenda, and to a renewed concern about “protecting their capacity to take artistic risks.”
“When you overexpand you limit your ability to take those risks,” Mr. Ellis said. “Although expansion is usually seen as a sign of health, it is not always a sign of vitality.”
Museums Were Blinded By Boom, Critics Say (New York Times)