With expansion and globalization, many museums are now multi-locational brands: the Met, the Guggenheim, the Tate, the Louvre. How can museums retain a cohesive identity across different buildings?
I read somewhere that the Met has 75 retail outlets, but it has now given up on the Met Breuer which was only a few blocks away and handed it over to the Frick for the time being. I am not sure how far the Guggenheim tries to control its brand across its different locations, since it is the museum that comes closest to a franchise. The Tate considers itself to be a family, so I suspect they do try to ensure a sense of comparability and common identity, if only in terms of their branding. Louvre-Lens was designed to do precisely what the Louvre in Paris cannot, which is to give the visitor a sense of an integrated experience, looking across cultures in a way that the Louvre in Paris is too mammoth for it to be possible. So, each institution treats its partners differently.
Postmodern museum practice has seen growing mistrust of any fixed canon, orthodoxy, or narrative – and a growing emphasis on individual interpretation and personal experience. How does museum architecture reflect that evolution?
The second half of my book is about the way that architects and museums have moved away from a coherent narrative structure. This is most obvious in the contrast between the first version of Tate Modern which was so logical with galleries in decks next to the Turbine Hall, all of it visible and logical, as compared to the Blavatnik Building, which both consciously and subconsciously encourages a mood of random exploration – what Herzog and de Meuron called ‘Lofts & Caves’.
I was very influenced by visiting the Muzeum Susch in the Swiss Alps, which is all about not quite knowing where you are going and discovering a succession of galleries carved out of the mountain side. Likewise, MONA in Hobart. The staircases look as if they have been designed by Piranesi or M.C. Escher – the belief that a mystical labyrinth is more exciting than the intellectual logic of an encyclopedia.