As a museum Director and Curator I often hear that my “minimalist” approach to presenting work is often in conflict with what many are accustomed to. My personal theory is that often too many works in a gallery or an entire museum can be overwhelming. Have you ever been to an all-you-can-eat restaurant with the expectation, accompanied by near giddiness, of having no restrictions on quantity or choice? Regardless of the quality of the offerings, I quickly discover that too many choices can lead to indecision resulting in merely sampling many items. By the time I discover what I truly like and where to focus my gluttony, I’m too full and exhausted to return to what I truly desire.
For me the “all-you-can-eat” mindset can apply to museum exhibitions. I want the viewer’s menu to be restricted, focused, and thoughtfully prepared so you have the time and energy to enjoy what is offered. Granted, not everything “on the menu” may be to your taste. But I am confident in the fact that there is always something somewhere in our museum that is sure to please and enlighten. The hope is that you can concentrate on works that appeal to your taste visually, and then discover what the works can offer intellectually. By confronting a work you didn’t initially like, you may discover something new about it or yourself…or, at the very least, you may determine specifically why you don’t “like” a work, which in turn provides a better understanding of what you do like.
Currently our small museum has 175 individual works of art on view along with 114 archival objects. If an individual spent just 30 seconds viewing each work it would take them 2.4 hours to see everything in the museum. This does not seem to be a minimal amount of work on view in proportion to our gallery spaces. By the way…30 seconds is twice the amount of time many studies find that people spend at a work of art!