The house museum was built a hundred years ago to provide a variety of objects, thereafter called a collection. New objects kept on coming and still do, the house is bursting its seams. So what now? There are two obvious answers and they are the ones that have been constantly proffered by the press either a bigger house and more objects, or the same house and less
Does this mean the curtain falls on all discussion? Is there nothing left to say?Far from it! Let us take those four words: bigger, more, same, less.
Let us link them with the words 'house' and 'object' and what might we get also?
- a bigger house for fewer objects
- a bigger house for the same number of objects
- a smaller house for fewer objects.
These additions are in fact no more than variations on a theme. The problems connected with museums are, and remain, three-dimensional one of a nineteenth-century nature, a question of height, width and depth.
Possibly the last-mentioned variation – a smaller house for fewer objects – offers the opening for further discussion. The words 'smaller' and 'fewer' sound like a punishment, as if a job has not been properly done, and now may be attempted in a more modest manner. This is certainly not the intention – as if expansion were the only means of demonstrating success. It is far more the case now that people feel the need for a certain condensation and the quick spread of knowledge. A crucial question is whether a museum for contemporary art must necessarily exhibit objects in their three-dimensionality in order to demonstrate what these objects are all about.
Simply to exhibit is not enough, nor does it seem possible to pass on knowledge without some sort of material (physical) presence.
Thus every answer will suggest a relationship between, on the one hand the minimum of three- dimensional space that is required in order to transfer a maximum of knowledge and on the other hand the maximum space needed in order to air a minimum of the information thought necessary.
Here we witness the conflict between the crowd and the individual, the specialist and the tourist, the glutton and the connoisseur. This conflict is utterly predictable and logical because the museums and galleries have for years defended as has no other social body - the traditional art-historical values such as authenticity and originality.
And now we have to foot the bill. At the very moment that the house bursts its seams, the guided tour operators and those with a commercial nose are pounding on the door. How do we accommodate the crowd? How do we preserve the individual?
The crowd wants more of the same thing: unique objects arranged in an eye-catching composition. The individual wants something else: to meander and to discover.
As I have said, the answer is a certain type of relationship. In order to create a relationship the first thing to do is define the outer limits.
This collection of papers is by way of being such a definition. The texts are absolute, they should be seen in a certain perspective, they are time-restricted. This is a cross-section of how some people – artists and those professionally involved with art – think about things. Unitining them is a critical question mark beside the self-imposed mission of museums and galleries to exhibit the authentic object. The texts are written independently from each other.
Overlapping and conficting meanings pop up as unexpected treasures. It is for the reader to collect these treasures.