How has arts journalism changed since you began? What do you make of these changes?
BM: From a handful of publications that included coverage of the art market, dozens and dozens of sites, event oriented mags and luxury brand magazines have emerged.
How do you think these changes have affected the industry as a whole?
BM: They’ve really raised the bar for serious art market journalism.
Can you talk about the rise of people’s interest in design in the last ten years? What do you think fuels this interest?
BM: With a greater portion of the population college educated and receiving some exposure to design whether it is sitting on Eames chairs or using Dansk ice buckets, that specialty was a natural to take off. Now, that look is further reinforced with midcentury design and later stocked on a bevy of TV sets while showcased in fashion mag spreads. Just look at Mad Men (I have a story in the works on that).
How do you think reporting on exhibitions has changed and why? Many museums have been radically rethinking curatorial processes and also the ways in which the museum is related to local and international communities.
BM: I think with both the general audience and journalists growing in sophistication, there is an effort for greater analysis and more insightful criticism follows naturally.
What is the single most profound and important exhibition you have covered this year? Why?
BM: Certainly, the Museum of Modern Art’s current exhibition “Ron Arad: No Discipline ” is sparking fireworks as to attendance and attention. Hands down, it’s bristling with mega volts in terms of new ideas on presentation. For my review and a tour of the show, see:
What advice do you have for curators and also museumgoers in terms of creating and participating in an exhibition?
BM: A further useful lesson can be gleaned at the MoMA. Point one: Hands down, MoMA’s Arad show points out how dramatic staging reins in visitors. Point two: simply note the difference in attendance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibitions “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul” and "The Model as Muse: Embodying Fashion” which closed in August.
Yes, the Afghan show brought in visitors but there were endless streams of crowds through the captivating fashion show. Why the discrepancy? “Model as Muse” staged well researched and styled vignettes like that compelling exhibition of models draped in Halston as well as Yves St. Laurent’s fabulous Russian line. That single vignette which was really a recreation of the Studio 54 VIP Room in the basement magically conjured up the decade of the seventies with Alicia Bridges top of the pop charts song “I Love the Nightlife” playing. Visitors were practically glued to it. It was brilliant staging while roping in steep visitor numbers.
I see every reason antiques should be treated more frequently in the same way as fashion positioned with the appropriate room décor, period accessories and music of that time frame. Such a mélange of staging would have knocked up the Met’s “Art of the Royal Court: Treasures of Pietra Dura from the Palaces of Europe” in 2008 into the upper echelons of museum excitement and attendance.
The pietra dura furniture and objects alone were stellar and the wall texts instructional but that entire presentation needed to be enlivened to bring in substantial crowds.
On the whole, I find far too many decorative arts exhibitions falling into a rather old fashioned way of presentation. Some might even dub that mode geriatric.
What do you think the journalists role will be in terms of thinking about art, reporting on art and assisting in the creation of public dialogues about specific goals for artists and the cultural capital they provide?
BM: I think journalists need to ferret out both the sensational stories as well as smaller ones. Certainly, it would prove useful if museums stepped up and included serious journalists on panels, symposiums and lectures to discuss the role of the market in collecting, new shifts, new price hikes.
In terms of thinking about art market and the effects of the global recession, what advice do you have for cultural institutions and private collectors who are struggling in this market?
BM: With endowments withering, cultural institutions today more than ever must rely on private philanthropists. In doing so, museums, historic houses and sites as well as other cultural institutions must make serious efforts to entice an entire new generation of philanthropists on multiple levels.
For those reading this interview and wondering how you managed to launch you career, can you discuss how and why you decided to become a journalist who covers the fine and decorative arts and design markets? What was compelling about the industry and the topic as well as how you trained for that role?
BM: For me, it was a eureka moment. I was 20 years old, cruising in the Mediterranean while touring Greek and Roman sites with the great Gothic Revival scholar and Johns Hopkins University professor Phoebe Stan ton and her family. I’d been avidly reading Souren Melikian in the Trib and decided I wanted a journalistic career with total immersion in the art market. My backup was to work for Mrs. Parish.
In terms of training, I began with post-graduate work in 18th century French painting at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Later I worked on the Trenton Times when it was owned by the Washington Post and covered everything. I followed that up with a stint as one of 12 special students at Princeton University and took economics.