‘Museums need to press the reset button and become more radical’

The National Gallery is one of the museums in the UK that has reopened with social distancing measures Photo: Hannah McGivern

Amid much frustration at being exiled from art in recent months, there have been moments of real uplift that have reminded me of the deep personal connections we have to works of art and our wider visual culture. Some of those have come in my conversations with artists, curators and museum directors on The Art Newspapers podcast The Week in Art, in which we have discussed “lonely works” behind the doors of museums in lockdown. A few highlights: the critic Laura Cumming speaking about the enduring resonance in her life and memory of Bruegels Landscape with the Fall of Icarus (around 1560); the Chisenhale Gallery director Zoé Whitley on the joy she finds in Alma Thomass Wind and Crêpe Myrtle Concerto (1973); and Julia Peyton-Jones finding portents of our cataclysmic moment in Leonardos extraordinary A Cloudburst of Material Possessions (1506-12).

Meanwhile, the best thing in the generally grim world of Twitter during the pandemic was #MuseumsUnlocked, an initiative by Dan Hicks, a professor of contemporary archaeology at the University of Oxford and a curator at the citys Pitt Rivers Museum, which came to an end in July, after 100 days. Through #MuseumsUnlocked, my Twitter feed had been punctuated every day by images of, and words about, places and objects, posted in response to daily themes set by Hicks, whether historic civilisations, particular cities or countries, or themes such as animals or food and drink. The results were a peoples curatorial endeavour—community art history and social history as told by visitors from across cultures and geographies; a collision of endlessly stimulating thoughts and pictures.

The #MuseumsUnlocked project has reached the end of its 100 days. We're going to give some thought to where this project goes next, so watch this space, but for now ❤A MASSIVE THANK YOU❤ to all who participated – and you can browse the archive here >> https://t.co/v3xh6kzNM2

— Museums Unlocked (@MuseumsUnlocked) July 11, 2020

Among much else, Hickss project reflected the profound bonds people have with museum collections; one that is deeper, it seems, than those they have with any blockbuster exhibition. And in the mid- and post-coronavirus era, thoughts on permanent collections have been uppermost in the minds of museum directors and curators. Dan Weiss, the chief executive of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and Frances Morris, the director of Tate Modern in London, Read More – Source