Cultural Consumption

The Month in Culture - July

Every month we're serving up all the stories you may have missed in the world of culture. In this installment: community engagement, the role of the critic, and art chatbots.

The Tate Modern and the Battle for London’s Soul

Staircase inside Tate Modern. Andy Haslam for The New York Times.

“Please respect our neighbours’ privacy,” reads a placard next to the window at the Tate Modern. It’s not a sign you might expect to see at a museum, but for the Tate Modern, the U.K.’s premier modern and contemporary art museum and today one of the world’s most visited, such signs have become necessary. Reaping the rewards of exponential growth and a number of expansions and refurbishments to its site, the museum’s presence has gentrified its once heavily industrial Bankside neighborhood, catalyzing the construction of several luxury apartment towers nearby. One of these towers abuts the Tate’s glass windows, giving museum visitors the voyeuristic opportunity to spy on residents next door, a fact that author Reif Larsen sees as “a perfect distillation of the current battle for London’s soul” in this fascinating reflection on architecture, urbanization, and cultural spaces.

Like It or Not, We Are in the Midst of a Second Arts Revolution

Mamby on the Beach festival in Chicago. Nuccio DiNuzzo for the Chicago Tribune

In this declarative op-ed from Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones, the cultural field is undergoing broad, substantive changes in how it relates to audiences – and how audiences relate to it. As Jones writes, a “radical democratization” is forcing traditional arts organizations to reckon with an empowered, discerning public, and leaving critics like Jones irrelevant. “This new revolution,” Jones writes, “the one going on right now, is not about religion or politics but is all about the radical democratization of American life. And the new battlefields are culture and story…you may have noticed. And it’s not good for an arts organization that expects its audience to sit down and be quiet.”

How San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art Used Text Messages to Make Art Go Viral

Send Me SFMOMA in action.

You’ve probably been all over “Text Me SFMOMA,” SFMOMA’s ingenious new automated messaging service that can send you objects from the museum’s collection via SMS. A perfect way for getting more of the museum’s exquisite but sprawling collection out to the public, the service blew up in the month of July, even at one point crashing the museum’s servers. But perhaps the more interesting story is how the little chatbot-that-could became viral—and it didn’t happen over night. The service launched in June, but didn’t truly hit the public consciousness until one particular art lover—none other than actor Neil Patrick Harris—tweeted about the service on July 11th, as artnet reports. That week alone, “Send Me SFMOMA” received a whopping two million in-bound texts.

Scholarship and Expertise: A Morning with Christie’s and the Brooklyn Museum

The Brooklyn Museum. Howard Brier/Flickr

Where are the boundaries between the museum and the community, the museum and its patrons, the museum and its building? How can these boundaries be broken down, re-arranged, made porous, or disregarded all together? Heady questions all, but perhaps answered no better than by Allison Whiting, director of Museum Services at Christie’s, and Anne Pasternak, director of the Brooklyn Museum in New York. In this conversation, the two discuss the current state of the art world, how public institutions are today acquiring and evaluating art, and how the Brooklyn Museum is, and can, serve the broadest audience possible.