Whither the Art Museum? - The Courtauld Institute of Art

Whither the Art Museum?

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Whither the Art Museum?

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London

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  • Thursday 25 May 2017
    PLEASE NOTE: This Date Has Passed
    2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

    Research Forum Seminar Room, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN


  • Michael Conforti

The seminar will address institutional change in art museums.  Beginning with a few (debatable and somewhat American centered) assertions regarding current trends in museum program and practice offered by the seminar moderator, participants will then discuss the need for, limits of and possibilities afforded by institutional change in art museums, looking at the leadership and governance structures necessary to realize such change.  The models for discussion will be mostly Anglo-American although we will attempt to address museums overseen by national cultural ministries as well.  Those participating in the seminar with work together to draft a set of goals for art museums in the mid-21st century,  goals developed by and then distributed to those present.


Institutional Change

Michael Conforti, “Museums Past and Museums Present:  Some Thoughts on Institutional Survival” (Plenary Address, the Association of Art Historians, London, April, 1995, Museums Management and Curatorship, vol. 14, no. 4,  pp. 339-355, 1995

Stephen Weil, “On a New Foundation“, The Cabinet of Curiosities, Washington and London, 1995, pp 81-123.

John Kotter, “Leading Change:  Why Transformation Efforts Fail“,  Reinventing the Museum: The Evolving Conversation on the Paradigm Shift, (2nd edition, Altamira Press, 2012), pp 521 – 531

Institutional Leadership

Sherene Suchy, “Emotional Intelligence, Passion and Museum Leadership“, in Gail Anderson, ed. (Ibid)  pp. 451-467.

Judith H. Dobrzynski, “Hip vs. Stately: The Tao of Two Museums” (interview with Thomas Krens and Philippe de Montebello), New York Times, February 20, 2000.

Rachel Donadio, “Shaking Up Italy’s Most Popular Museum“,  New York Times, August 17, 20016.

Calvin Tompkins, “The Modern Man” (Nicholas Serota)“, The New Yorker, July 2, 2012, 

Robert Hewison and Nicholas Penny, “Do Museum Directors need Curatorial Experience“,  Apollo, May 2017.


Additional Readings:  Institutional Leadership

Edward Alexander, “Henry Cole and the South Kensington (now Victoria and Albert) Museum“,  Museum Masters,  Nashville, 1983, pp. 143-170.

Edward Alexander,  “Wilhelm Bode and Berlin’s Museum Island“, (Ibid.), pp. 207-233.

Sybil Gordon Kantor, Alfred H. Barr Jr. and the Intellectual Origins of the Museum of Modern Art, (Cambridge and London, 2002), pp. xviii-17. 

Michael Conforti is Director Emeritus of the Clark Art Institute, a museum and research center in Williamstown, Massachusetts, which he led from 1994-2015.  A former president of the Association of Art Museum Directors (2008-10), he holds a Ph.D. from Harvard and subsequently served as a curator of sculpture and decorative arts and chief curator in San Francisco and Minneapolis respectively.  He currently addresses these subjects along with issues of museum history and practice teaching in the graduate program in art history at Williams College.  A Fellow, Resident and former trustee of the American Academy in Rome, CIHA (Comité international d’histoire de l’art) and ICOM-US, he currently serves on a number of museum and artist foundation boards in the United States and Canada and is member of the International Advisory Council for the Hermitage and the Zentral Kustodie of the University of Göttingen.

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