Salon 4 High and Low

High and Low examined the persistent juxtaposition between high and low culture, elite and mass appeal, fine and popular art, scholarly and journalistic writing, ivory towers and public squares. Many curators—and museum professionals more broadly—are haunted by the real and perceived tensions between the canonical power of the institutions in which they work and the influence of popular culture. From the Walker Art Center’s Internet Cat Video Film Festival, to the Alexander McQueen show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, to MoMA’s recent acquisition of several video games, the inclusion of popular culture in art museums always raises eyebrows, causes stiff upper lips to quiver, and makes a few outright apoplectic. This juxtaposition continues to heat up animated discussions, and this salon set out to explore why.

Watch the videos from the salon and explore some of these questions: Is the distinction between high and low culture still meaningful? What is the role of popular culture in art museums? What is the difference between popular and populist appeal? Is popular success a manifestation of golden mediocrity? Can a “high culture” institution maintain its precision and authority while making itself more accessible and engaging to the general public? How do we move from ivory towers to beacons? Can elitism ever be a good thing?

The salon took place on April 18th, 2013.


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