Professor Stephen Clowney of the University of Arkansas School of Law has written an interesting article examining the role of markets in certain special categories: things like organs, human lives, sex, and works of art. He has an interesting summary of the scholarship critical of markets; and he suggests I think that markets are not inherently corrupt. He ably points out flaws in the scholarship which criticizes commodification, yet he makes his own grave errors in relation to the role of the market on the art trade and its allied fields and disciplines. His approach is a kind of ethnographic study of art appraisers and prostitutes. The article is well-written and entertaining, but I just don’t think you get a complete picture of the art market by only talking with appraisers. He also ignores large areas of helpful scholarship from criminologists, totally ignores the Knoedler forgery scandal, and does not acknowledge the problems presented by the antiquities trade. But if you want an entertaining read, I can recommend it.
I miss museums, and it sounds like the next time I visit one I’ll look like I’m trying to rob the place.
Garty Tinterow, the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston offered some insights into how his institution is planning to safely reopen, whenever that may be. He did a useful Zoom interview with the Houston Chronicle’s Molly Glentzer, and here’s a brief excerpt:
Q. When do you expect the museum to reopen, and what will be different?
I check my mail every day but the crystal ball hasn’t arrived yet. Opening by July 1 seems to be feasible, given our most pessimistic models. The pandemic will bring permanent change to art museums such as ours. We’re going to have to live with this virus for quite some time. Our biggest challenge is learning gradually; it’s going to have to begin with baby steps. We’ll all learn how to visit a museum differently. We are adopting procedures for low-touch entrances, exits and visits. We’re going to change the way we deliver information so individuals so they won’t have to touch things or pick up things that aren’t their own. An attendant with a mask and gloves will open the door. You’ll probably be wearing a mask. We won’t hand you gallery guides unless they can be sanitized; you’ll probably download material on your own device.
Many museums provide a textbook case of how to live in this new world. For a survey of the Association of Museum Directors, we calculated how many visitors we could admit based on the square feet in our display spaces. If they have six feet of circumference around them and move through the space as equally distributed as atoms of oxygen, how many people would there be? Probably 800 at a time. We can easily accommodate that. They won’t be in one space; they’ll be throughout our campus in multiple buildings. Maybe, if we have a film program in Brown Auditorium, people can be seated on every other aisle and alternate seats. There is room at the MFAH for social distancing.