David Anderson, director general, National Museums Wales
Museums in 2020 should be radical and participative institutions at the heart of their communities. They should be working in partnership with third-sector organisations to develop formal and informal learning, health and wellbeing, skills and social change. Museums are already the most innovative public institutions in the arts and cultural sector. By 2020, they should have turned this expertise outwards, to become centres for public creativity and local enterprise.
What stands in the way of this? Our first challenge is the UK’s 19th-century model of arts funding. A brilliant series of reports by GPS Culture has exposed how the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England continue to give disproportionate amounts of money to under-performing London institutions, while creative arts organisations in the nations and regions aredenied the financial support they need.
Project: National Museum of Qatar
Location: Doha, Qatar
Designed by Jean Nouvel
Our second challenge is the systemic failure of the media to give fair and impartial coverage of exceptional arts projects outside of London, such as Welsh art prize and organisation Artes Mundi. We, National Museums Liverpool and many others are developing new models for the sector, based on cultural participation and social justice. This is not utopia. Growing out of years of research, it demonstrably works. By 2020, all museums should be like this. But that will only happen if we have the courage to challenge the UK’s current cultural model.
Project: Andalucias Museum of Memory
Designed by Alberto Campo Baeza
Location: Granada, Spain
Christoph Vogtherr, director, the Wallace Collection
While museums and galleries have worked hard to safeguard artworks and increase accessibility, we now witness national and local governments reducing funding and commitments to the arts. Our grant-in aid has been reduced by more than a third over the past five years – and the cuts continue. The long-term impact of this financial erosion is of huge concern. The principles of safeguarding the artworks and making them available are at the heart of the Wallace Collection and the purpose of every museum. Once lost, these precious sources of learning and inspiration are gone for generations.
Project: Taipei City Museum of Art
Architects Volkan Alkanoglu | DESIGN
Location: Taipei, Taiwan
We must be honest, direct and keep a healthy distance from PR and media spin, which is taking over a critical public discourse and a respect for the arts. Knowledge is acquired over time and ideas are born out of reflection, so we need to be wary of the well-honed soundbite and the overpowering voice of digital mediation that suggests instant gratification.
Humanity, honesty and human experience is to be found in museums. They connect us to the past, to collective and individual experiences, and in doing so ensure our future.
Architects Studio Daniel Libeskind
Location: Dresden, Germany
Maria Balshaw, director, Whitworth Art Gallery
Museums of the future should be places where people feel at ease – to encounter things they may not know as well as things they do. They should be places to commingle and explore things in the company of strangers.
Within them, people should find the past, the future and be able to bring their own ideas and learn new ones. Museums should be enjoyable, curious, allow us to see beauty and fill us with wonder. They should be sociable spaces, which quietly undo social hierarchy and inequality.
I don’t think that museums save lives, but I do think they contribute to the living of a good one. They help to make us better educated, more tolerant, more resilient, more mentally well, with better health and a (vitally) cheerier outlook on life.
Project: Miami Science Museum
Architecture: Grimshaw Architects
Location: Miami, Florida
If you ask what are the greatest challenges of our time are, in Manchester or anywhere in this country, it would be intolerance between people, inequality within society, and increasing social isolation of people of all ages, especially if you are poor – exacerbated if you are elderly. The smart money is on the difference culture can and does make in tackling these issues.
If you make (more and different) people feel comfortable in a museum, they can learn something new, and accept that there are things bigger than any one of us. To quote Dea Birkett’s observation of the visitors at the opening day of the Whitworth in Manchester: “Every sort of person, doing all sorts of things. An example to every museum, everywhere.” We said we wanted the Whitworth to be a 21st-century museum, so this is what I wished for.
Project: PH Museum
Architects: FR-EE Fernando Romero Enterprise
Robert Hewison, critic, curator and academic
The future of museums will be very different from their recent past. When I wrote my book in November 2014, Cultural Capital: The Rise and Fall of Creative Britain, the so-called golden age of substantial lottery projects and generous government funding was over.
National museums are now having to absorb cuts of a third in public funding. Some of those funded by local authorities are suffering even more. Some may not survive. Whatever the result of the coming general election, the outlook is bleak; museums are going to have to use their own initiative even more than they do already.
Kohn Pedersen Fox creatives taken on inviting sentiment of motion in their design of the exterior for the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. Petersen Automotive Museum honors the exploration and presentation of the automobile and its impact on the US of A, taking Los Angeles as an inspiration.
The question is: will these public institutions go down the route towards privatisation, with an ever greater reliance on commercial sponsorship and wealthy private patrons? Or will they do more to reach out to their visitors, who are their true sponsors? I hope the latter.
FR-EE Fernando Romero Enterprise studio proposal designed from recyclable and re-used materials for the MADU Museum in Mexico City.
Museums will need to do everything they can to engage with their public, through their displays, education and outreach programmes, and by being as open as possible to what their audience wants. Museums are much more than repositories of objects; they are meeting places for people and ideas. Their future depends on remaining a dynamic part of the public realm.
David, Christoph, Maria and Robert all spoke at the Wallace Collection’s recent debate: A future for the past? Museums in the 21st Century
Main Illustration and to Social Network: Slash Paris, Cedric Delsaux, Acte 2 Gallery