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Exhibiting behaviors: The business of running metropolitan art galleries and museums

Art historian and former gallery director Prof Gerard Vaughan discusses the challenges, fiscal and otherwise, facing publicly-funded art galleries. He also explores the evolution of curatorship in these galleries. With host Elisabeth Lopez.

"Museums that take contemporary art very seriously - either a dedicated museum of contemporary art such as MOMA in New York or Tate Modern or whatever, or the MCA in Sydney - they're seeing numbers that they've never had before and that's a fantastic thing" -- Prof Gerard Vaughan




Prof Gerard Vaughan
Prof Gerard Vaughan

Gerard Vaughan is the Gerry Higgins Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne.

After graduating from the University of Melbourne, with an MA thesis on French Post-Impressionism, he undertook doctoral research at Oxford University on the rise of Neo-Classicism in late 18th century Europe. He became a Research Fellow of Wolfson College, and was appointed Private Secretary to the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University, and later Deputy Director of Campaign for Oxford, the first US-style major fundraising campaign undertaken by any university in Europe.

In 1994 he was appointed Director of the British Museum Development Trust in London, being closely involved in planning the rebuilding of the British Museum (with Norman Foster’s Great Court at its centre), and responsible for securing the majority of the funding from the private sector.

In 1999 he returned to Melbourne to become Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia’s oldest art museum, with a brief to oversee the NGV’s complete redevelopment, ranging from the reorganization and internal enlargement of the existing building in St Kilda Rd, with the Italian Mario Bellini as architect, to the construction of a new building in Federation Square (The Ian Potter Centre), exclusively dedicated to the display of Australian art, both Indigenous and in the European tradition; the architects were the Lab Group. Forty percent of the cost of the St Kilda Rd building project was raised in the private sector. A major program of Australian and International exhibitions was launched, with the NGV becoming the most visited museum in Australia, and in global terms 24th – 26th in the world. A major fundraising campaign for developing the collections was launched in 2008 – Masterpieces for Melbourne – and many highly important art works, from Old Masters to contemporary, including a significant expansion of the Asian collections, were acquired.

In 2012 he retired from the directorship of the NGV to return to academia, taking up a research professorship in The Australian Institute of Art History at Melbourne University. He is currently working on a history of private art collecting in Australia.

Selected Publications

Credits

Host: Elisabeth Lopez
Producers: Eric van Bemmel, Kelvin Param
Audio Engineer: Gavin Nebauer
Voiceover: Nerissa Hannink
Series Creators: Kelvin Param, Peter Clarke and Eric van Bemmel

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VOICEOVER 
This is Up Close, the research talk show from the University of Melbourne, Australia. 

ELISABETH LOPEZ
Oscar Wilde once said that when bankers get together, they talk about art, and when artists get together, they talk about money. Around the world, the people who run public art museums of course need to talk about both. Gallery directors are under enormous pressure to bring art to new and diverse audiences and to make a buck. The world's galleries are getting busier, with blockbuster touring exhibitions of impressionists and old masters, but how has this affected the way we experience art? How is the nature of funding changing, and what impact is this having on curatorship? Is the blockbuster exhibition on its way out and if it is, what's likely to replace it? Our guest on Up Close today is Professor Gerard Vaughan, the University of Melbourne's Gerry Higgins Professorial Fellow of Art History, attached to the Australian Institute of Art History. In the 1990s, Gerard Vaughan was the inaugural Director of the British Museum Development Trust and until 2012 he was Director of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. He's currently writing a history of private art collecting in Australia for Melbourne University Press.Gerard, welcome to Up Close. Can you give us a brief history of the blockbuster exhibition?

GERARD VAUGHAN
So far as Australia's concerned, it's a global issue of course. We had occasional major exhibitions, from the 1920s up until the 1960s into the '70s. And then Australia began to import what we would call blockbusters for the very first time. The two great ones were one from the Museum of Modern Art in New York which came to the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne and went to other states as well, which was called Modern Masters. This was the first time that really major Picassos and Matisses and that whole sort of modernity that MOMA stands for, such works were on display. Also at the same time, there was an amazing exhibition of Chinese antiquities that came in. And again, Chinese antiquities, the very early material of that kind had not been seen in Australia before. So enormous numbers flocked in. The blockbuster phenomenon in this country, in Australia, really begins in the mid-1970s and I think it's still continuing. It's lingering here longer than in most places. At the beginning, certainly in the '70s and '80s and into the '90s, what the Australians were doing was simply reflecting a great international explosion of blockbuster exhibitions, because never before had so many great artworks been so mobile. These exhibitions became increasingly expensive and cumbersome. Some boards of directors, particularly in European cities, were saying, well why would we export constantly just to nearby neighbouring European countries our great masterpieces when we would rather people actually came in as cultural tourists and saw them in their home museum.And then I think the GFC from 2008, in a funny way I think for the northern hemisphere pretty much finished off the blockbuster in its traditional form, that is, the definitive, enormous exhibition. But already the art museums such as the London National Gallery had begun to experiment with the blockbuster concept, but reduced in size. The first one that really was an enormous success just before the GFC hit was dedicated to Velazquez. Instead of having between 80 and 100 great works, which was the sort of standard, I suppose, for an exhibition that would be taken seriously, were regarded as having gravitas, size, important and whatever, there were just 40 works by Velazquez. It took up half the space of a normal blockbuster, and yet they had the highest visitation to any exhibition pretty much in their history.

ELISABETH LOPEZ
High visitor numbers tick a whole lot of boxes, especially if governments are involved in sponsoring exhibitions, but is it a case of this phenomenon has grown so much that museum directors really need to be careful what they wish for?

GERARD VAUGHAN
That is right, of course. I think that the world got a little bit tired and people are saying there are other ways to do this. It's a phenomenon that lasted for a number of decades, but there are other issues at stake here. So the internal blockbuster was one of the North American responses to the GFC and I remember seeing the Metropolitan's Picasso exhibition, which was one of the finest Picasso exhibitions I've ever seen in my life, but every work that was in it belonged to the Metropolitan Museum. It's startling to stand back and just reflect upon what the Metropolitan actually has in its permanent collection. That can apply in any number of areas of art history. Those collections are extraordinary.There were some very well-known and famous redevelopment programs in the 1970s into the '80s. Renovated, rebuilt, new wings added to them and whatever. It became a kind of, again, a very hot global phenomenon. It's still going on of course, but the great moment for these huge national redevelopments and the Louvre, the Grand Louvre Project perhaps is the emblem of that process, but it's going on all over the world. So every brief for every architect in every city, every state capital in Australia, every middle American city - you name it - every provincial city in European countries, was, we must have now a permanent always ready custom-built temporary exhibition space. There is a proliferation of new exhibition spaces that weren't there before and an expectation that they will be constantly filled with a continuing series of exhibitions coming in from somewhere else. And that process alone, I think, put enormous pressure on the world's ability to lend and it did become tougher, certainly in my last years as Director of the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, to argue why a museum should send its greatest masterpieces to us. Pictures get tired. The more they travel, the greater the danger is that something might go wrong. If it's a picture, the paint might begin to flake off. Even the finest curatorship and conservation principles, I think pictures can move around too much and objects too. There was an increasing reluctance when one went in to talk to the director of a major overseas institution, but everyone's asking for that work. We've got to stop it. We have our own audiences. They deserve to see the great masterpieces and these are perfectly reasonable arguments.We very often carried the day, as did Japanese and Korean directors, by arguing that we are so far, from Europe especially, or the great North American collections, it's really not possible for a person in Melbourne or Sydney or Perth to get on a train or have a quick flight of one hour, to go and see the originals. We are so far removed that there is an argument in fact for continuing to be pretty generous to those art museums in the East Asian strip, which in the southern hemisphere means us in Australia.IB did get tougher, therefore the process of putting an exhibition together… 

ELISABETH LOPEZ
The lead time is what - at least two years?

GERARD VAUGHAN
Very often more. If you're buying a ready-made, tick the box exhibition, in other words, an institution overseas is rebuilding its galleries in one area or another and they say, okay they're going to be out of action for three years, let's have a three year global tour and to make some money. They tend to come ready-made with a ready-made catalogue, but I think that the exhibitions that we enjoy doing most - I mean the curators, everyone in the institution - were the ones that we invented ourselves and that we therefore borrowed from institutions all over the world. But that does require by definition a much longer lead in time, and you really do have to go in and persuade people. You've got to get boards on side, you've got to get governments on side.We borrowed a number of things from Austria for our great Viennese modernism exhibition and we were told at the beginning, we really told lend these. They've only left Austria now and then for very special reasons. So we had to think through what our argument was - (1) it was distance of course, the tyranny of distance; (2) Melbourne has a great Viennese community. Now that first generation of émigrés, very often Jewish émigrés, who came in the late '30s or immediately after the Second World War - perhaps they are no longer with us, but it's their children and their grandchildren who carry that heritage with them. And as a result of that, the NGV in Melbourne has one of the greatest collections outside Austria of Viennese decorative arts for the modern period of the early 20th century, because of families who were able to take their possessions with them at the time of the Anschluss and get of Austria very quickly, and these were gifted in due course. So we constructed arguments that actually had what I would call political resonances. 

ELISABETH LOPEZ
Yeah, it is quite a challenge to get some of these issues across, at least when you're dealing with governments in the other direction in terms of getting funding. Often it's just about art being part of a slate of major events that can include Formula One racing.

GERARD VAUGHAN
Yes, that's right. That's the problem of course that every museum director faces. I certainly wanted to do offbeat shows, shows that picked up artists or periods of art or groups of artists almost unknown in Australia, that I felt required a presence here. And yet because they're unknown, market research told us that we would have lower numbers. 

ELISABETH LOPEZ
How do you reconcile that?

GERARD VAUGHAN
Well on the one hand, the press might accuse you of dumbing down - I mean, talking in very general terms. On the other, they will then accuse you of having an exhibition failure if you don't get enormous numbers and higher than the numbers the year before or the year before that. So these are the sorts of issues that one needs to think about and deal with.

ELISABETH LOPEZ
Today on Up Close, we're talking about the business of running public art galleries with Professor Gerard Vaughan. Just as there is outsider art, there are outsider art museums. In Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, a city of less than 220,000 people, the privately owned Museum of Old and New Art, MONA, has led to Hobart being nominated one of the top ten cities to visit in the world. Gerard, what is it about MONA that's led to such a buzz and a few copycat galleries here and there? 

GERARD VAUGHAN
I think MONA is the most fantastic acquisition for Australia as a phenomenon. It's as much a phenomenon as a kind of private art collection and museum that's open to the public. It's the brainchild of David Walsh, who is a businessman. His business career is an interesting and colourful one in Hobart and he has decided that the town where he grew up, he would build his own museum that really reflected his own collecting enthusiasms and interests, but he would do it in a highly professional way. He would have one of our best architects, Nonda Katsalidis, a Melbourne-based architect, design an extraordinary building on a peninsula that juts into the River Derwent, and MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. He began in fact as a collector of antiquities. He has wonderful Greek and Roman coins. He has Egyptian antiquities, mummies and money cases and whatever. But he's also deeply interested in contemporary practice right of the cutting edge.He decided that his collecting interests were particularly to do with sex and death. Interestingly, not love, sex and death. It's often a tripartite thing. I think it also goes back of course to some of the antiquities that he owns. I mean, they're very much about death and rituals of death and how all that works. But what he has been able to do is create something at his own expense, something very, very cutting edge indeed. Therefore, he's had more freedom in fact to experiment. To go right out on the edge, and he's had terrific overseas imported curators who have come in and curated exhibitions for him. And itt really has become a phenomenon. There's no question about that.

ELISABETH LOPEZ
If we want to look for art or exhibitions that are edgy, a bit more difficult, is it the case that we really need to look towards the privately funded museums or is it a mixed picture?

GERARD VAUGHAN
It's definitely a mixed picture. Certainly in this country, I mean we have a number of dedicated museums of contemporary art. And certainly, the NGV I think, with its new director, is taking the position that it's now contemporary art that's got to come to the fore. I think that's a very sensible thing to do. The NGV is a universal museum. It collects everything from antiquity through Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, right up to now, but I would hope and expect that the NGV will take its place as an umbrella organisation that in a few years will have within it a dedicated building which can be for global contemporary art.

ELISABETH LOPEZ
What are the sorts of funding pressures that gallery directors around the world are facing? I understand obviously because of tax laws in different countries that the tax treatment of philanthropic contributions would be quite different. 

GERARD VAUGHAN
You're quite right. I think that in every country of world now, even in the public sector, there is a role for private philanthropy and private involvement. Now in a funny way, Australia, as in perhaps every aspect of life in Australia - whatever it is - we do seem to sit somewhere between what I would call the European, and in our case particularly the British, precedent and the American one. They might represent the two extremes. Until very recently, the European position was a public museum of art is funded by the public purse. It's funded by the taxpayer. It's a rather worthy institution that does certain things within certain parameters, which historically have been defined by the size of the annual grant from government.On the other hand, with the exception of the national institutions in Washington DC which are funded by the American government and therefore by the taxpayers, all the other North American museums are private institutions. That's always given them a lot more flexibility in what they do, how they operate. On the other hand, there's a greater risk. They need to sell entrance tickets to raise money that pays the salaries of the curators. Particularly when the GFC (global financial crisis) hit, there were a couple of horrendous years for the North American institutions. I think that the income of the Guggenheim, for example, went down by about 40 per cent. That had to be reflected therefore in losing staff. They were sort of catastrophic years, and yet another of the great New York institutions, their senior curator who I was talking to at the time of the GFC and having to lose, huge staff cuts. But he said, although many people who were not yet ready to retire - sort of weren't able to continue working - and that was a bit of a tragedy in a kind of personal sense for these very skilled professionals, that the institution has actually emerged from that sort of trauma, if I can call it that, because they've had to so fundamentally rethink what they're doing and how they do it and what their financial commitments are. That they're better off, in fact. 

ELISABETH LOPEZ
Has this financial shock been behind the Louvre and the Guggenheim setting up franchises in places like Abu Dhabi?

GERARD VAUGHAN
There no doubt about it. There's no doubt about it whatsoever. It's all about money and big money, and there is quite a debate in France now, about really whether France as a country has sold out by taking whatever that enormous sum of - is it a billion euros or something - to create the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Is this really what France should be doing? There are many, many museum professionals in France who have come out publicly and said, we actually think we've sold out on this one.On the other hand, the French government is totally behind it and what they're really saying is, the world has changed and you've got to catch up. And here is now a role for the private sector in France, in the French museum sector that wasn't there before, and we the government will be thinking through the levels of funding that we're going give through direct government grant in the context of what you might or might not be able to pick up through entrepreneurial activities and working with the private sector.That bring us full circle back to your first question actually, which was really about Australia and where we sit. And there's been a very big change, certainly in the 13 years I was at the NGV. When I arrived, I think if you took the gross revenues of the NGV in any given year, about 85 per cent of the gross revenues would have been the annual operating grant from the government. When I left, that had dropped to below 50 per cent. Now I didn't mean that the government was giving less. What it meant was that the private sector was giving more or that the institution was earning much more money through its own entrepreneurial activities. In other words, operating as a business on one level, but only on one level. And that was a tremendously interesting debate.Especially with boards, because they're made up of businessmen, who all say we're running a business here, how are we going to earn money? I kept saying, well actually no, we're a government entity, we're an agency of the government of Victoria. We are funded principally through a block grant, an annual grant to pay the salaries and whatever, but we are required to find money from other sources and to that extent, we must be very business-like. But there's a little bit of a difference between saying we are a commercial business as a state entity, and being business-like in earning as much money as one can. Those proportions that I've mentioned in relation to Melbourne are almost identical to the same proportions in Sydney, and I think that's probably being played out in other cities around Australia. So in terms of gross revenues, about half of it comes from government grant and about half comes from either sponsorships or philanthropic donations or from earned income through running restaurants and cafes and hiring spaces out. 

ELISABETH LOPEZ
The example of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London - a few years ago, they had an advertising slogan saying with are an ace caff with quite a nice museum attached.

GERARD VAUGHAN
Yes, I remember that. The director was Esteve-Coll, in fact was her name, and I think it was a Saatchi contract that came up with that. I think it was a huge success I have to say, but it really did bring out the purists who felt that somehow the V&A had taken a wrong turn. It had gone too commercial. It had lost sight of what it was there for. I don't agree with that at all. I think the V&A was doing the right thing. If you want broad community buy-in to a museum of art or a general museum in fact, you've got to make it attractive. How do you get beyond that sort of rather educated committed group of museum attenders and supporters to the general community who would say, oh it's a bit airy-fairy, I don't really understand what goes on there. What would I know about the Renaissance or whatever? Perhaps it's not such an interesting place for me, although I don't mind going there once a decade for the wow factor.If we want the community to really embrace an institution, they've got to enjoy it. And it is, for many families and family groups, one of many possible leisure activities. You do have to make it interesting and engaging. You do have to say, look if you come on a weekend - or any day of the week - but particularly the weekend, there will be family activities, there will be things for kids to do and they can be given an introduction to what it is to be in an art museum. That applies on every level, but I honestly think that having a decent café, a place where you get a good cup of coffee and even a nice lunch that doesn't cost the earth - that's very important as part of a leisure activity. I mean the day Louvre introduced in their staircases bars where you could have a glass of wine halfway through an exhausting visit was a wonderful day. 

ELISABETH LOPEZ
You're listening to Up Close. Our guest is Professor Gerard Vaughan of the University of Melbourne, talking about the business of public galleries. Gerard, in China we're seeing incredible growth in the number of museums. About 400 opened up in 2011 alone. Why is this happening and what sort of challenges does it pose?

GERARD VAUGHAN
Part of it's a reflection of the changes in Chinese society and the changes in private wealth, and who is in a position to actually collect and open a museum. I'll come back to that, because the private museum in China is a very fascinating phenomenon and it's an increasingly important one. The other, of course, is government policy, and certainly at one of the very major party conferences in the last four or five years, it was decreed and decided that a reengagement with Chinese culture was going to be very much a part of where the country was going.Perhaps that represents the final recovery from the sort of cultural trauma of the years of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. For example, one of the interesting changes is the National Museum of China in Tiananmen Square, which is an amazing place. When I was there a couple of years ago, it had just reopened after a massive redevelopment and reorganisation. And what was interesting, what I could call the Chinese history galleries which was essentially modern Chinese history, which were really about Mao Zedong and the revolution and the triumph of Chinese communism and whatever - that was still there, but they've changed. And there is now a didactic - a very, very interesting in fact - didactic display that is very much about the history of China through the 19th and 20th centuries, which of course brings in European interventions and those catastrophic European interventions. Armies occupying parts of China, the Opium Wars and whatever, and that's very much to the fore in fact.Part of it of course is telling the story of China from an almost Chinese nationalist perspective, which any country does in its national museum and it's an entirely appropriate thing. The great picture galleries which yes, do have those great sort of Soviet inspired social realist paintings of Mao Zedong addressing the masses and whatever. I find that art very interesting, but of course now, it has a kind of antiquarian element to it, I suppose.There is an explosion of contemporary practice in China. A lot of debate. Ai Weiwei, for example, was imprisoned and got into trouble with the authorities, but I think that this flowering of contemporary practice in China - a lot of it very on the edge, by the way, and that bit perhaps is a bit more private - is something that will be with us forever now. Chinese contemporary photography, for example, has a very particular character and nature that is playing through in all sorts of interesting ways. Chinese video, performance art. I saw an exhibition in London only last year which was a kind of synopsis, a series of snapshots of the history of modernism and the avant-garde in China over the last 20 years or so. Very, very deeply interesting material. Some of it, of course, was catching up on things that have been experimental art - what we might call the avant-garde, we don't use that word much these days - in Europe and North America in the '60s and '70s, but now it has its own character. I think it's sort of got into its stride and there are many, many Chinese artists are thinking about how their art can reflect the country they live in, the changes that are going on in China. And underlying all of this is this explosion in art museums. The Shanghai Art Museum, which was a commendable institution with a very good director and staff, but quite small in fact. Not a large building at all. And they were given by the government of China at the end of the Expo in Shanghai, the Chinese pavilion, which was the largest building in the entire Expo. So they went from having about 10,000 or 12,000 square metres of exhibition space to having 100,000 square metres of exhibition space. A new national arts museum in Beijing as well, just out near the Olympic Games site. That's on an enormous scale as well.It raises a whole lot of issues about what they're there for, what the content is going to be, and what the relationship therefore of the Chinese art world and art sector with the rest of the world is going to be. Collections of non-Chinese art in China are almost non-existent. I mean I'm sure that in private hands, there are many people - well we know there are many people collecting contemporary European and American art, because these enormous prices that we hear about for Rothkos and whatever selling for enormous sums. Very often, these are buyers, private people, and the money is coming out of Hong Kong or Shanghai or whatever. So of course there are collectors at a very high level in China, but basically, there's a complete absence of major collections in China of non-Chinese material.And therefore, if a Chinese museum of art wants to exhibit non-Chinese material, it has to be borrowed from elsewhere. It has to be brought in. There is nothing to draw on internally in China. What I've picked up is China accepting that and saying look, if we want to have a really vibrant culture of imported exhibitions - things coming and going all the time - we're going to have to develop new ways of doing it. And one of the issues has got to be, we've got to train our new generation of curators and museum directors.

ELISABETH LOPEZ
How do they get this expertise? I mean, that's such a massive task, to develop a generation of museum directors, especially given the fact that people are making projections that China will need something like 43,000 museums to get to the sorts of ratios in the developed world.

GERARD VAUGHAN
Part of it is just coming in at a young age and learning the ropes and doing it by rolling up your sleeves and developing experience. I think there's a really important role for the rest of the world to play in training Chinese curators. Not just Chinese, I mean I just saw in the press the other day that there's a project going on in London where a private individual has given quite a lot of money for programs to train young Indian curators, for example. So it's the same issue in India of course. A very similar thing is playing out, but not on the scale as China. I mean there's no doubt about that.

ELISABETH LOPEZ
There's very little private collecting in India.

GERARD VAUGHAN
The great collections of Indian art, both historic and contemporary, and in the hands of a fairly small number of tycoons, you know, industrialists and people like that. I think there are great opportunities for Chinese curators to come and work in Australia to get that experience. We have Melbourne and Sydney universities - many others have schools of management for example. And that's a big debate in fact. Perhaps the art museum director of the future is not an art historian or not someone who's come through curatorship and the rigour of knowing about art, studying art, being an expert, knowing what exhibitions are all about, but rather just someone who has an MBA and who's very good at management. And such a person should be running an art museum and then they can employ people who have those other expertises and whatever.It's a very interesting debate. That one was played out in New York for example. At a certain point where their great director who retired a couple of years ago, Philippe de Montebello, the board decided in really responding to a kind of new - I suppose a new ideology within schools of management in the United States, and that is that organisations, business organisation, could have a kind of CEO and a kind of co-equal COO and that they would sort of be there together. And that kind of arrangement was put in place for a number of years only at the Met and it didn't work in fact. There was a huge debate about what kind of person should be running an art museum.

ELISABETH LOPEZ
James Cuno was quite critical of the rise of the shops, the wall text, things like that, saying the author of the discourse replaces the maker of the object as the primary agent in the museum experience. 

GERARD VAUGHAN
Jim Cuno has edited a couple of some very good books actually, his collection of essays, on exactly that. What the contemporary modern museum should be about - I mean, a museum of art in today's world, which may include contemporary and modern art and usually will. It's a huge debate. I think the battle has been won, that it's better for an art expert who understands the idea of a museum and what its potential is, to employ a very good person with business skills and whatever, so that they certainly should have a highly skilled COO but maybe not necessarily a co-equal one, because it certainly didn't work with the example of the Metropolitan in New York.That's played out in different ways in different parts of the world. It was done at the British Museum in fact at the end of the 1990s. They went down that route again, a kind of co-equal director slash CEO with a co-equal COO. That lasted only a year or two and it wasn't going to work in the future.From a Chinese perspective, a person who is going to run an art museum must know about art and they must understand the culture of museums, but of course, they have to know about making money, they have to know about marketing issues, they have to know about branding. There is now this immersion in the commercial world. And that's a good thing, I think. I don't see that as a negative at all. It's just a question of where you find the balance, I suppose. In China, there's a role for Australian institutions to play, and the other important part of anyone who travels to another country to study and to gain qualifications is the networking potential. I just think it'll be a very good thing for Australia to be embracing that next generation of the people who are going to be running all these new museums in China, so that the interconnections and relationships are very natural ones and quite personal ones. I think that's really when it all begins to work tremendously well. So I would have thought there's wonderful potential for Australia to dovetail with that development in China. Exactly where it's going to end, I don't know. The latest reports I've read is that it's tailing off a bit now. The number of new museum projects is beginning to tail off. There's another whole debate about the nature of some of the private art museums in China and what they're there for.

ELISABETH LOPEZ
Gerard, where do you think in global terms engagement with contemporary art is going to be? 

GERARD VAUGHAN
There's no doubt there's been a massive shift and change in the last decade or so. If you look at the number of people who went to exhibitions of contemporary art, you know, 15 years ago, 10 years ago, and compare it with now, it's huge. I think that museums that take contemporary art very seriously either a dedicated museum of contemporary art such as MOMA in New York or Tate Modern or whatever, or the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Sydney - they're seeing numbers that they've never had before and that's a fantastic thing, obviously. I think engaging with your own time and culture is essential.I think one of the reasons this shift has happened - perhaps there are two. One is that sensing that this was coming, but also playing a role in making it happen, have been these big new developments. And it has been exciting. You know, the Guggenheim in Bilbao for example, the opening of Tate Modern in the former powerhouse, you know, the Turbine Hall and whatever.

ELISABETH LOPEZ
So impressive physical spaces, fantastic architects transforming them.

GERARD VAUGHAN
And spaces where new media can be presented in a very relaxed way. Video, film, whether it's performance art, whether it's installations on a massive scale. Like Ai Weiwei for example, that great installation he did that filled the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. There is a whole new audience and a growing audience and a very refreshing and important engagement with young people, but of course also new methods of communication play a great role in that; Twitter for example. I mean people - Facebook. People can communicate with each other, young people, and be enthusiastic and encourage their friends to go to things.We noticed that, for example, with the Ron Mueck exhibition that we did. Melbourne born, in fact, sculptor living in London. Most people think he's British, but he makes either these colossal human-like sculptures or miniature ones, but he almost never works to life scale. Ron Mueck, when we did the exhibition in Melbourne, it was a very important show. And e got far more people visiting it than we imagined. It went to Brisbane and did really well up there as well. Tremendously well in Brisbane. He said, I'm not interested in copyright. I don't care who photographs my things. Anyone can photograph anything. So we didn't have to have those terrible signs that many lenders demand you put up, nothing can be photographed. There were even some lenders who said, no one can stand with a pen in front of our work in case the crowd pushes you forward and the pen damages the art work and whatever. So there are changes. What we found was that simply through Twitter, a person can simply say, I'm in the NGV, there is the most amazing work, here it is, and suddenly they've sent it to all their friends. Those kinds of approaches and using that sort of new media, new social media, is crucially important. It's the future. 

ELISABETH LOPEZ
Thanks very much for coming in, Professor Gerard Vaughan.

GERARD VAUGHAN
Great pleasure to talk to you.

ELISABETH LOPEZ
That was Professor Gerard Vaughan of the University of Melbourne, speaking to us on Up Close today on the business of public art galleries. Relevant links, a full transcript and more info on this episode can be found at our website at upclose.unimelb.edu.au. Up Close is a production of the University of Melbourne, Australia. This episode was recorded on 21 March 2014 and our producers were Kelvin Param and Eric van Bemmel. Audio engineering by Jeremy Taylor. Up Close is created by Eric van Bemmel and Kelvin Param. I'm Elisabeth Lopez. Until next time, goodbye.

VOICEOVER 
You've been listening to Up Close. We're also on Twitter and Facebook. For more information, visit upclose.unimelb.edu.au. Copyright 2014, the University of Melbourne.


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