A powerful reflection on the universal art museum, considering the values critical to its history and anticipating its evolving place in our cultural future
Art museums have played a vital role in our culture, drawing on Enlightenment ideals in shaping ideas, advancing learning, fostering community, and providing spaces of beauty and permanence. In this thoughtful and often personal volume, Daniel H. Weiss contemplates the idea of the universal art museum alongside broad considerations about the role of art in society and what defines a cultural experience. The future of art museums is far from secure, and Weiss reflects on many of the difficulties these institutions face, from their financial health to their collecting practices to the audiences they engage to ensuring freedom of expression on the part of artists and curators.
In grappling with these challenges, Weiss sees a solution in shared governance. His tone is one of optimism as he looks to a future where the museum will serve a greater public while continuing to be a steward of culture and a place of discovery, discourse, inspiration, and pleasure. This poignant questioning and affirmation of the museum explores our enduring values while embracing the need for change in a rapidly evolving world.
About the Author
Daniel H. Weiss is president and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is the author of In That Time: Michael O’Donnell and the Tragic Era of Vietnam.
“A public-spirited perspective about how a changing world will benefit from the constancy and adaptability of large institutions.”—Maxwell L. Anderson, Apollo Magazine
“A fresh approach to ages-old debates in the museum field. . . . [A] slim, but meaty volume . . . empathetic and respectful . . . useful and enlightening. . . . An intelligent, thoughtful defense of museums and why they matter more than ever.”—Marjorie Schwarzer, Museum Management and Curatorship
“Why the Museum Matters is an excellent and unflinching assessment of the current conditions, ambitions, and limitations of the contemporary American art museum.”—James Cuno, president and CEO, J. Paul Getty Trust
“Daniel Weiss’s informed and personal account explores inclusivity, transparency and trust in governance, plurality in universality, and the value of shared knowledge in the public sphere. The book is not only a good read, it should matter to all museums and their communities looking to the future.”—Elizabeth Cropper, dean emerita, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art
“Daniel Weiss is a noted scholar and a gifted leader who brings a wealth of experience to his understanding of museums. His timely questions and insights about museums and their opportunities and responsibilities, makes for an important book.”—Glenn D. Lowry, The David Rockefeller Director, The Museum of Modern Art
“Daniel Weiss’s language is accessible, but his ideas are complex, thought provoking, strategic, and encouraging for the museum’s future. In Weiss’s view, the museum should be challenged, but ultimately it is resilient, a reflection of that same attribute in our culture, in our democracy, and, perhaps, also in ourselves.”—Courtney J. Martin, Paul Mellon Director, Yale Center for British Art