What defines success for an art museum? It’s one of those wonky questions art lovers don’t think much about… until somewheres such as MOCA or the Corcoran simultaneously dissolve and implode.
Yesterday morning I tweeted and Facebooked out a link to a bit of wonkery titled “Metrics of Success in Art Museums,” a paper current Dallas Museum of Art director Max Anderson wrote for the Getty Leadership Institute in 2004. In the paper, Anderson dismisses attendance and exhibition-blockbusterhood as useful ways of measuring museum success and lays out some ideas on how museum directors and trustees should measure whether or not they’re doing a good job. To my astonishment, my Twitter and Facebook followers RT’d, liked and shared the PDF like mad.
I’m glad there’s an appetite for it. It’s good stuff. Even though some of the statistical data points have moved a bit in the eight years since Anderson wrote it, the underlying principles are entirely au courant. I’ve referred to it often over the years. I strongly suspect no one at MOCA nor the Corcoran has read it. If MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch can tear himself away from announcing disco exhibitions to New York publications (from one Gallerist NY to another?), I think he’d learn a lot. His board would learn more.
Apparently I’m not the only one with museum-success metrics on the brain: A couple weeks ago Leonie Fedel of the Getty Leadership Institute wrote this blog post on the topic. One of the commenters on the blog post was one M. Anderson of Dallas, Tex., who took strong issue with a metric recently proposed by Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad. Don’t miss it.
Related: The fantastic William Poundstone also seized on EliEconomics.