Collecting the New

Altshuler, Bruce
Princeton University Press

This collection of essays addresses both the conceptual and practical challenges facing museum collections in the twenty first century. Authors wrestle with reconciling contemporary acquisitions into permanent collections, considering the ongoing challenge of determining just what ‘contemporary’ art is. Questions arise such as when is contemporary; is it best to collect only living artists; established artists? The permanent collections of contemporary art embodies a paradox, argues Jeffrey Weiss of the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), as the older ‘contemporary’ art is pushed further into history and the collection of new art (of the present) is historicised by the identity of the museum ‘undeniably confers instant pastness onto present art.’ Other essays in the book address traditional narratives of encyclopaedic collections that are threatened by globalised trends of contemporary art that potentially rupture the established categories. Likewise, curators reconsider out-dated treatment of minority artists within collections which have been mistreated or misunderstood by past curatorial methodologies. One of the most practical concerns facing museums collecting contemporary art is new media, which can too quickly become old media. Technological restraints or poor understanding of technical art prevents the adequate collection of ‘new media’ art. Several curators outline their approach to collecting, displaying and conserving media art such as film, internet and other digital art.

Shelby Lakins