There is an interesting article in the latest issue of Apollo, the international art magazine, a stablemate of The Spectator Australia. Written about the extensions to the Kunsthaus Zurich which will make it the largest museum in Switzerland, the article reminds us of the length of time it takes for such a project. The proposed extension was announced in 2007; it will be finished in 2020. ‘Culture is a slow business’ says museum director Christoph Becker. We’ve had some recent museum announcements here: the Art Gallery of NSW hopes to build ‘Sydney Modern’ to provide a dramatic increase in exhibition space to be spread over part of the Domain towards Woolloomooloo Bay. Meanwhile the main part of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences is to be moved from the Powerhouse site in Ultimo to a riverbank at Parramatta.
Both proposals have triggered considerable anxiety; the Sydney Modern because it will alienate open parkland, while the MAAS move to Parramatta is seen as an abandonment of its heritage, even though the Museum has only been on its present site since 1988.
Both projects will cost an enormous amount of money which, like the Zurich project, will almost certainly increase over time. Questions are raised: what are the new museums really for? The Zurich director says: ‘We build museums for the public nowadays and not so much for the works of art’.
We must hope they are what the public actually wants.
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