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Podcast: What should an art museum be?

Posted on 29 Apr 2021

In this episode, ‘The Art Museum in Modern Times’ author Charles Saumarez Smith takes us inside the world’s leading galleries, exploring the ‘Disneyfication’ of the art museum, how architecture influences art, the uniquely contemporary role of the museum café, and why COVID might have lasting impacts on curatorial creativity.

Muzeum Susch, Switzerland, designed by Chasper Schmidlin and Lukas Voellmy. Photo credit: Photo © Conradin Frei.

As Former Director of the National Portrait Gallery and National Gallery, Charles Saumarez Smith is well-versed in the making of a museum. Here, he traces a profound evolution over the last several decades in how we experience art and what we think an art museum should be. Once acting as ‘public schoolrooms’ that prioritised education and linear display, art museums have undergone radical shifts in recent decades, making ‘a switch from coherence to exploration’.

From more commercialised Western galleries like the Tate Modern, MoMa and the Guggenheim, to the Japanese museums centering reflection and serenity, Saumarez Smith explores key questions about these extraordinary spaces. How does the architecture of a museum shape its visitors’ experience of art? Can a building ever distract from the collection that it houses? And how will museums emerge from their current existential crisis?



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This episode was produced and presented by Eliza Apperly and edited by Benjamin Nash.

Discover more about The Art Museum in Modern Times.

The Art Museum in Modern Times

Charles Saumarez Smith

The Art Museum in Modern Times (Signed Copy)

Charles Saumarez Smith