The Blight of Contemporary Art


Bruce Robertson, Director of the Art, Design and Architecture Museum lectured on the current role of contemporary art and the subsequent effect on museums and historical artifacts around the world. As with so many industries today, money distorts the realm of art. Even museums have their eyes glued on the box office, the big hits. The needs of the audience are evolving and changing, and preferences are shifting from historical to contemporary art. While some consider this a blight to the art world, Robertson said he found it more of a cautionary tale for future generations.

 Museums seem to be faring well with the change, but what of their historical collections? In 2004, MoMA reportedly sold one of two Picasso paintings from 1909 of Cubist houses for between 12 and 15 million dollars because they were ‘not a Picasso museum.’ They have made hundreds of millions of dollar in art sales over the past decade, sales that are often private and not advertised. These sales result in funds to snap up newer artworks, which often appear to have been purchased in the heat of the moment, a feverish rush to revamp a museum’s repertoire.

With historical collections disappearing into private collections. Where will contemporary art lead? It will eventually fall out of style, but the interest historical content will probably never return. Only the rare gems, such as the superb Getty Villa and exhibits at both LACMA and SBMA, continue to showcase our ancient past. Between the three of these SoCal museums they hold collections of Asian, Greek, Roman, Amerindian, European, Egyptian and African artifacts. These museums swim against the tide, attempting to maintain a way to measure and compare ourselves with other times, places, and cultures of existence. It is an attempt at understanding not only an aesthetic creation, but also the foreign mode of life that inspired its creation.

 Two very different ways of viewing and creating art are vying for popularity, and contemporary art is in the process of winning out over historical art. While an unfortunate outlook for the retrophiles (like myself), it will be interesting to see how art will move into the future. In addition to being the Museum’s Director, Bruce Robertson is also a Professor at UCSB, his Winter Quarter 2014 offering was Art History 141: ‘Museum Practices and Techniques,’ which covered the acquisition and conservation of artworks, museum architecture, and management/administrative procedures.

-Lydia Kaestner, ADC Intern

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