Met, Louvre, and LACMA Chiefs Talk Money, Curating Trends, and Learning from Apple

Talk hosted by French Embassy in New York hints at the future of mega-museums.


Andras Szanto, Michael Govan, Herve Barbaret, Thomas Campbell-apr24-2014-AP-post

“The Encyclopedic Museum of the 21st Century” talk at the French Embassy on April 23, 2014. From left: András Szántó, LACMA’s Michael Govan, the Louvre’s Hervé Barbaret, and the Metropolitan Museum’s Thomas Campbell.                     Photo: Paul Porter/

What’s in store for top museums in coming decades?

The French Embassy in New York rounded up a star roster of speakers to address that very question on April 23. A talk titled “The Encyclopedic Museum of the 21st Century” featured Thomas Campbell (Director, The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Hervé Barbaret (Managing Director of the Louvre), and Michael Govan (Director of LACMA), and was moderated by museum consultant and author András Szántó. It was part of a month-long festival of events in New York related to French culture

As a group, the museum officials fretted about audience growth and budgets, the pluses and minuses of technology—and uniformly praised the efficiencies and transparency of the Apple Store and said its success had implications for museums.

Some highlights:

1. Tom Campbell thought he’d be jealous of his museum colleagues in Europe who receive government funding. But their “budgets seem to be constantly cut back and cut back and cut back. Fundraising is an implicit part of our [institution], but if you are able to fundraise, the sky’s the limit.”

2. Barbaret was surprisingly evangelical in his view of the Louvre’s mission: It should be a “social and educational institution. . . . [We want] to be able to improve the situation of many people.”

3. What’s one thing Govan is grateful he doesn’t have to deal with? As a young institution, “I don’t have to deal with success, with expectations. It’s our responsibility to be a laboratory.”

4.  Curatorial trends? Campbell sees a “reaction against the deep specialization” of curators of the past few decades. He praises the tremendous scholarship but notes that the museum audience is more interested in exhibitions that cross specializations.

5. The Met, Campbell said, is in the midst of “an audience engagement study at the moment, we’re really trying to understand our audience. We’re really trying to understand those who feel the Met is not for them, who wouldn’t feel comfortable walking up the Great Steps.”

6. What’s on each director’s wish list for 25 years from now? Said Govan: “A very diverse local audience.” Campbell hopes the Met “will look very much like it does today . . . but we will have to be much more diverse in our staffing.”Said Barbaret, “I would like to see even more visitors—and when they go out of the Louvre they say ‘Wow.'”

Rebecca-Taylor-Agnes-Gund-Ursula-von-Rydingsvard-Antonin-Baudry at the French Embassy.

Guest Rebecca Taylor, MoMA PS1 chairman Agnes Gund, artist Ursula von Rydingsvard, and Antonin-Baudry, French cultural counselor for the US.

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