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.
Kim Hastreiter is co-editor and founder of Paper magazine, “the most sophisticated chronicle of New York’s heart-stopping cultural encephalogram over the past 30 years.” With Kim at the helm, Paper has served as a pop-culture incubator, documenting the fashion, music, and art born from surfing, skateboarding, hip-hop, and gay life.
Glenn Lowry is Director of The Museum of Modern Art, a position he has held since 1995. Glenn conceived and initiated the Museum’s successful merger with P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in 1999. He has lectured and written extensively in support of contemporary art and artists and the role of museums in society, among other topics.
June Cohen is a journalist by training, and has spent most of her career at the intersection of media and new technology. In 1991, she led the Stanford University team that developed the world’s first multimedia publication, dubbed Proteus. Then, in 1994, June helped launch HotWired.com, the world’s first professional website. In her current role as director of TED Media, June has led the development of TEDTalks, she produces TED’s salons, edits the TEDBlog, and co-produces the conference in Monterey.
Michael Hirschorn is an Emmy-award winning President and CEO of Ish Entertainment. Previously, Michael headed programming at VH1, and was responsible for thousands of hours of programming, scripted and non-scripted, and set-up a documentary shingle, VH1 Rock Docs. A former journalist and magazine editor (New York, Esquire, Spin), he has continued to explore the revolutionary impact of digital media as contributing editor at the Atlantic Monthly.