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2005 | 46 | 128

Article title

THE PROFUSION OF THE TEMPORARY EXHIBITIONS. SELECTED ASPECTS OF THE PHENOMENON UPON THE EXEMPLE OF GERMAN MUSEUMS (Profuzja wystaw czasowych. Wybrane aspekty zjawiska na przykladzie muzeów niemieckich)

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Art historians and museologists have increasingly begun to discern the problematic nature of the widespread inflationary growth in temporary exhibitions. In his latest book 'The Ephemeral Museum: Old Master Paintings and the Rise of the Art Exhibition' (New Haven 2000), Francis Haskell points to a growing conflict between strict conservation regulations on loans of works of art on the one side and a tremendous number of temporary exhibitions on the other. Whereas the differing interests of a museum piece's owner, conservation requirements and the organizer of a temporary exhibition have existed for a long time, this is now assuming new disturbing forms. Today, a 'museum game' - whose final part is the temporary exhibition - is all about finding a compromise by all parties involved. However, the practises of the contemporary exhibition industry unfortunately suggest that such compromises are often made to the detriment of the loaned art objects in question and that their safety is not sufficiently safeguarded. Statistical data gathered by the Berliner Institut für Museumskunde indicates that alone in 2000, 9.348 temporary exhibitions were shown, out of which 1.698 took place at museums of art - a testimony to the 'museum boom' of the past decades. This profusion of temporary exhibitions is dangerous from two perspectives - first on a physical level - the matter of travelling museum pieces is in danger and secondly, on the mental level - it is a way to build artificial prestige, to render judgements, to trade in art, to develop unrelated contexts or to manipulate art. This rise in the number of temporary exhibitions can be attributed to the growing acceleration of social life and the ever more popular concept of the museum as an event-centre. In this climate, the temporary exhibitions are somewhat transforming museum into a 'factory of exhibitions' with a tendency of emphasizing quantity over quality. Further, the 'battle for visitors', a higher turnout for a museum and the competition with other institutions offering entertainment promote the mentality of viewing a work of art as a mere commodity subject to market behaviour or sponsor interests. Similarly, museums have been more willing to compromise on conservation policies when loaning works of art to other museums in hope of seeing such favours reciprocated. Rather ironically, an overabundance of temporary exhibitions may not only be observed in 'times of plenty', when funds flow more freely, but so do 'times of famine' contribute to this phenomenon. In order to organize and finance an exhibition, several institutions may well have to be involved, which results in transporting the exhibition from one place to another, so that all institutions that participated in the costs could present it. Given such problematic pressures and the negative consequences of such a profusion of temporary exhibitions an interdisciplinary study of the phenomenon is called for.







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  • Dariusz Kacprzak, for postal address contact the journal editor


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