Art critic rails against fun, Spring, nighttime party at Hirshhorn

Is the art enough? Probably not. Art museum revenues are falling and museums need to experiment with new business models and ways to build a buzz and relevance with young audiences.

Yesterday, art critic Judith Dobrzynski wrote in her Real Clear Arts blog about how an upcoming nighttime event at the Hirshhorn is elitist, flaunted, and inexcusable. Dobrzynski says, “I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, if museum officials don’t believe that art is enough, no one else will either.” What do you think?

The “After hours” event is $18, next Friday night (29-April) in the outdoor plaza of the Hirshhorn. Dobrzynski’s concern is that a VIP event may make the general public think the museum is elitist. Dobrzynski laments, “For years, museum officials have been droning on about the need to dispel the notion that art museums are elitist. To me, it’s more of a museum image problem than anything real: some people think that they have to dress up, have a college diploma, or have other so-called elite attributes to feel welcome. Mostly, that’s pure fantasy — or an excuse.”

New revenue models are sorely needed, and late evening events at an otherwise closed museum do not disrupt free daytime operations. Mark Durney, who maintains the blog Art Theft Central, noted that “institutions that put on risque after hours events did not make huge cuts or layoffs during the past 2-3 years.”

The Hirshhorn has a lot of great events, targeting a variety of audiences from teens to nightclubbers. See events. They are also creative about outreach methods, including using Facebook to target teens. See my article on Hirshhorn, “Promoting art events to teens directly from FB.”

Especially as the internet, social media, and mobile devices are dissolving the walls of the museum, critics like Dobrzynski (who has been editor of the Sunday “Money & Business” section and deputy business editor of The New York Times) would better support the institutions they love by supporting new revenue models and use of museums as events spaces, rather than mischaracterize a fun, late night Springtime party in the courtyard of an art museum as making the museum inaccessible.

Meanwhile, there are many interesting events going on in the UK now during Museums at Night 2011. See list at Culture 24.


One comment on Art critic rails against fun, Spring, nighttime party at Hirshhorn

Judith Dobrzynski

19 Apr 2011, 5:50 pm

Sorry, but you have missed the key point of my post: what's elitist is not the party itself, but that the Hirshhorn has created a VIP lounge — that is, a two-class system of party-goers.


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