Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include a response from museum officials. And exhibition announcements have now been released. See follow-up blog here.
Newfields—the Indianapolis Museum of Art and its grounds—takes a hit in a recent piece published on Citylab.com, a sister site to The Atlantic.
Titled “Your Entire City Is an Instagram Playground Now,” the story explores the trend toward social experiences that can be megaphoned via social media. The lighting of New York City bridges, photo op murals in new developments, and touring high-ticket events including the Museum of Ice Cream, are explored.
But none of these take the criticism that Newfields does. Writer Kriston Capps calls the transformation of the campus-formerly-known-as-the-IMA “the greatest travesty in the art world in 2017. ... It is arguably not a museum any more. Or, at least, it no longer wants to be.”
Capps, a staff writer at Citylab and art critic for Washington City Paper, does note that the museum still contains “profound collections of modern artworks, Asian artifacts, design objects, and more,” but comments that these are de-emphasized in favor of other activities on the grounds.” He adds “Every step in the museum’s recent evolution has been a cynical one.”
Overstating? Of course.
Certainly, the reduction in curatorial staff is troubling and the spotlight put on programs such as Winterlights does open the door to such conclusions.
I’m still holding out hope, though, that Newfields finds a way to balance such crowd draws outside of the museum with stronger shows inside. But evidence is hard to find right now. Its presentation of the touring show “City as Canvas” closes January 28 and the Newfields website shows no significant exhibitions scheduled for the rest of 2018. And nothing happens when you click the 2019 button.
I’d love to be able to counter the Citylab commentary with evidence that the IMA—not Newfields but the Indianapolis Museum of Art itself—has a vibrant line up of exhibitions scheduled to open that demonstrate the same commitment to quality arts experience as it does to quality extracurriculars.
If Newfields wants to re-make a case for itself as an art museum, not just as an Instagram-friendly attraction, it has some exhibition announcing to do.
Update: In addition to promising information soon on upcoming exhibitions, a representative of Newfields issued the following statement late Wednesday afternoon:
"Newfields, a Place for Nature and the Arts, is committed to exploring new fields of study and inquiry, and continually expanding the experiences available to our community. Experiences with art will always be central to our mission, which also includes enriching lives through exhibitions, film, music and performances both indoors and out. Creating showcases, such as Winterlights in our botanical garden, has resulted in expanded and more diverse audiences, which positively impacts the community. We have an exciting 2018 Museum program including exhibitions that incorporate art and nature together, or highlight each on their own, and can be enjoyed by guests of all ages, interest areas, and backgrounds. New curatorial announcements will also happen during the first half of the year."