Deep within the Wall Street Journal’s recent profile of LACMA’s Michael Govan is a paragraph that discusses one of the central issues of art museums in our time: their inability to display the vast majority of their holdings. Rival museum luminaries like Eli Broad have suggested creating lending-library like museums that would insure works are on display around the world instead of demurely waiting in storage. But numerous conservators and critics of mega-shows claim the constant movement stresses the art too much.
Govan envisions passersby watching curators set up exhibitions—activities typically shielded from the public. Rather than the usual 60 percent of museum space devoted to back-of-house uses, he wants to reverse the equation, and then some: As much as 80 percent of the square footage will house art on view to the public. Whole sections of LACMA’s collection—such as gems tucked away on the third floor of the Art of the Americas building—will be dusted off for the first time in years.
Many museums already have open storage and other accommodations to the surfeit of art on their hands but nothing that compares to Govan’s tantalizing inversion of the art museum.
If He Builds It, You Will Come (Wall Street Journal)