The tide was already turning in 2019, when the Museum of Modern Art in New York inaugurated its new building with 100 percent of its galleries devoted to its own art, and announced a new approach to programming (and membership sales) that put collection displays first. These should be golden years for collection presentations, and young curators in particular should take this chance to redeploy collections for new aims. Look at the Cleveland Museum of Art, whose recent acclaimed show “Stories From Storage” absorbed hundreds of rarely displayed objects — medieval illustrations of plague saints, Tibetan thangka paintings, animal figurines from interwar Vienna — into a chorus of new meanings.
2. Think beyond the exhibition.
But a show may not always be the smartest route. At the Serpentine Galleries in London, the curator Lucia Pietroiusti’s “General Ecology” program has delved into climate and culture through conferences, publications, podcasts, reading groups, residencies, film screenings — and almost no exhibitions. If the post-Covid museum must first rediscover its own collection, it could also imagine new and interlocking forms of programming that stretch well past the gallery walls. An added bonus: such programming is usually cheaper and greener.
3. Join together and co-produce.
Opera and dance companies have been doing this for years: when a production gets pricey, they share the costs and then the glory. A post-Covid museum could distribute the burden of its largest undertakings — as will happen with this fall’s Jasper Johns retrospective, jointly organized by the Whitney and the
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