Zhang Zikang: The Nature of the Art Museum

To define the nature of the art museum is to understand its identity, affiliation, role, function and regulation pattern. Therefore, accurately positioning the art museum is the most critical issue to be faced and solved at the current stage of the development of art museums in China.Any suggestion we have for the problems (system, organization, market, etc.) that arise in Chinese art, or even for the inheritance of Chinese traditional culture and the development of contemporary culture, is all stem from the fact that Chinese society (our government, our public, our culture and artistic workers) has not recognized – on thought and action – the nature of the art museum and its important role in the whole ecosystem, such as artistic ecology, social ecology, political ecology, human ecology, and so on. The value and significance of the art museum can be only guaranteed if the nature of the art museum is clear enough. On this basis, Chinese art system can be expected to be improved, and the highly anticipated preferential policies of the government on the development of art can become possible.


The Durability of Society and Culture


“Archives, libraries and museums promise a secular eternity that can replace the religious commitment to resurrection and immortality. (Boris Groys)” Art museum is also a Heterotopias named by Michel Foucault as a place where valuable time experienced by human beings is accumulated without being lost. In an increasingly event-driven culture, the core qualities of an art institution should be sustainability and heritage inheritance. The French historian and museologist Lorena San Roman once said, “the museum is like a mirror. It reflects the past and present progress and development of the society, and the combination with other social development, thus affecting the whole world.” The museum aims to connect different time and space to let us know what the world looks like, let people in the long history of mankind give themselves a precise orientation, and help people to think about the future. Every era needs a witness. The birth of the museum of modern art (MoMA) of New York is in the early 20th century, which is the precipitation of contemporary art of the era. Today, our contemporary art museums are also performing the same function of the times.

An art museum is a carrier for the dissemination, inheritance and construction of social culture, and is an essential part of people’s social and cultural life. “For art, style, technique and material are indeed very essential elements, but having these conditions does not mean that it has reached a high artistic conception. The most important thing is the concepts and ideals behind it. Just like science and technology, these concepts and ideals are rooted in nation, Zeitgeist and worldview. Works are the most authentic only if they can be rooted in these ideas.”Therefore, it can be said that art museum represents the highest value and truth of different social groups because the character of the museums (art museums) of a nation, country and city also represents the character of the nation, country and city.

 Democracy, Publicity, Diversity and the Non-profit

“Museum is the midwife of democracy. (Francis Henry Taylor)” From the history of museum development, setting in the political context as the feudal monarchy died out, being based on the spirit of equality and showing royal and private (nobility, church and temple) family’s collection to the public as a sign of birth, museum has represented an object-centered, more comprehensive new way of understanding the world, and a force of human democracy and civilization, becoming the typical characteristic of the human into the modern society. 

In Western societies, one of the basic guarantees of democracy to the public interest is the social education that represented by museums – art education is not only freely enjoyed by the natives but by everyone. “Museum itself is considered  as an important and motivating part in the democratic American society where all people are equal, which is the fundamental source of museum authority.” “The art museum sees itself as a positive intermediary for promoting social equality. Through professional activities related to, such as collection, research and presentation, art museums connect human beings with the broader social reality, and stimulate and facilitate a democratic, reflective, creative and inclusive society with aesthetic objects and intellectual power.” At the same time, in Western societies, “participation is regarded as the cultural power of everyone and an indispensable part of the museum’s characteristics, which means that everyone has the right to know his or her own cultural identity, to link with other cultures, to participate in cultural events, to possess equal opportunities for creativity and to criticize freely.

The main characteristics pursued by visual art not only enabled a perfect combination of art and museum but also fully shaped the democratic character of the art museum, thus making it a public and diversified platform. 

(1) The transferability of art makes the art museum have a natural pubic gene. Hannah Arendt thinks “the word ‘public’……first represents all the people who are present in public domains and enjoy the most openness of being visible and heard……Then, the word ‘public’ describes the world itself we all share yet in which individuals highlight different personal status.” Art is a visual cultural language and an image of the spirit of the times, closely related to human experience. Although understanding art sometimes requires to have knowledge or cultural background, the body of art – visual images for all those who have seen them – is clear without any communication boundary, and even has advantages of direct communication that go beyond language and character, which is just the reason why image has always been an important tool for religion spread and indoctrination. The art museum, a gathering place centered on art, or mainly through the visual perception, has become the most accessible cultural center for the public. In the extensive, deep and daily interaction of art and the public, the public is more active in receiving art. Art museums have become a public cultural resource, and play a very vital role in public cultural life.

(2) The inclusiveness of art makes the art museum a platform for the public. Art is a work in pursuit of differences. The essential thing of art is not to deny the differences between people but to accommodate different voices. Art connects people with distinct views and becomes a platform for exchanging different opinions. The introduction of art into society means that society embraces broader and richer values. As a civic institution, the art museum has become a rare public space that can meet the interests and needs of both the society’s privileged top elite class and more marginalized disadvantaged groups. It ensures that the poor get as much comfort from art as the rich, and brings these two classes more closely connected. The inclusivity of art turns the art museum into a public space of diverse cultures and social integration, making the public art museum –  must be – an institution accountable to a multi-level public. By offering the audience the same opportunities of appreciation, museums can bring a diverse society closer together.

(3) In the process of building a modern museum, the choice of “no distinction made between men and women of all ages (by Pidansat de Mairobert)”, the nature of “be open to all (by Ministre de I’interieur Roland)”, and giving anyone the right to appreciate it, directly contributed to the formation of the “public universality (by Li Hui)” of the museum. “Publicity arises from the recognition of individuality in contemporary society” and thus leads to “accessibility”, which refers to the specific content of both physical architecture and spiritual product.

It is precisely because the democratic, public and pluralistic nature of museums in their development had become increasingly clear that in 1974, when the World Associations of Museums revised their definition of the museum in 1963, it placed particular emphasis on “opening to the public”, “serving society and social development”  and “not pursuing profits”. Museums are non-profit organizations, so do art museums – a category of museums, which has long been agreed upon around the world. 

A non-profit organization is generally an institution or organization that is founded in a legal way other than governments, enterprises and other entities. The non-profit organization takes the common welfare of the public as the premise and it does not make the private profit and pursuing profit as the goal. A professor at the Johns Hopkins University, Lester M. Salarmon, has identified five characteristics of non-profit organizations: organized, non-governmental, non-profit, autonomous and voluntary, which is used as the standard of defining internationally popular non-profits. Non-profit organizations thrive as democratic societies continue to improve. In the 1950s in the United States, the role of non-profit organizations was insignificant and marginal. By the 1990s, non-profit organizations have been at the center of American society, becoming one of the most prominent features of American society. People realize that non-profit organizations are not only very significant to the life quality and civil rights of the American people but also carry the value of American society and tradition. Non-profit organizations not only become the civil societies of American society but also empower and enhance individuals’ ability to fulfill their civic duties and realize their own value. Non-profit organizations are also seen as a hallmark of modern civil society.

As a part of social public cultural service system, art museums are public welfare units providing public products and services to the whole society. The art museum, of course, as a non-profit organization, does not exclude the necessary existence of profit-making activities, but it strictly prohibits the distribution of its remaining income and profits to the organization owners or specific beneficiaries. In western countries, a relatively well-developed operation system of art society has been formed with “tax exemption” (especially “tax exemption for equal amount”) as the core. Encouraging charity and donation activities provides a good policy environment for the establishment of various foundations and guarantees the operating funds and the independence of non-profit organizations. In this book, we will elaborate on it in combination with the current development state of Chinese art museums.

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Table 1: The roles and functions of art museums as the non-profit organizations in the country and society

We don’t deny, of course, that even under a relatively perfect system, and under the constraints of many industry standards centering on public interests and internal management disciplines of art museums, the profit-making (subjectively or objectively serves the direct or indirect business interest) of the art museums in the developed countries is often in the center of public contention. According to Belting, a German scholar, this is mainly due to the combination of museums and contemporary art. In order to avoid entering the tomb of history, the alliance of museums with the current art is almost forced and inevitable – the current art also enhances its own value in the background of museums. Such kind of “symbolic transactions” make “people often ask whether the new art is looking for its museum context or the museum is looking for new art.” Xie Xiaoze, a tenured professor at Stanford University, says that “art museums are usually in the shadow of power and in the infiltration of commerce and wealth. The non-profit character, academic quality and public trust it should possess are not predetermined, but are the results of long-term unremitting efforts.” Art museums, so to speak, for their own development and active shifting to their own democracy, publicity and non-profit character, may lead the intelligent manufacturing system – brought about by the commercial invasion and initiative attachment to private interests – to be disturbed even start to collapse from within art museums. While how the effectiveness of the old constraint mechanism can be demonstrated as widely as possible through improvement, is a common issue faced by global art museums. The scholar, Gan Yang criticized it severely that “culture originally offered a higher standard of lifestyle, beyond people’s commodity fetishism under the market economy condition, so as to develop the possibility of lifestyle spiritually, including personal lifestyle. However, in the last 20 or 30 years, this requirement has been basically abandoned in the West. All the criticism to the advanced culture and the uncritical praises of the mass culture actually only further encouraged the market to dominate the cultural field, resulting in an increasingly lower and vulgar cultural field, because there is no higher standard and positive value pursuit.” For Chinese art museums, this is both a reality and a dilemma, and even an opportunity.

Independence and Neutrality

It was not until the 19th century that the concept of art gradually positioned itself as the “artistic” direction in “art museums”. Through the middle ages, after the political chaos, religious oppression and the subsequent war, poverty and anguish, along with the appeal for “anti-feudal, anti-church and anti-autocratic” and the advent of the intellectual light of humanism “democracy, equality and freedom”, “art” and “museum” were born and grown up almost at the same period as the Enlightenment Movement. Because of this, it can be said that the neutrality of religion and politics is a natural gene of “art” and “museum”, and becomes the most important criterion for the art museum.  Or we could put it in another way, “art”, “museum” or “art museum” refer to new “politics” and new “religion” that has been invented by the human being to represent the spirit of the Enlightenment Movement. The core and value of this “politics” and “religion” lie in representing the spiritual field of human beings, spreading value of common social cognition independently, constantly expanding new frontiers for human progress, conducting new experiments and exploring new possibilities.

In Western society, the independence and neutrality of art museums mainly refer to the “non-party” characteristics of art museums. In the United States, they are mainly embodied as the characteristics of NGO (non-profit organization), which is closely related to the core of art museums – art itself seeks uniqueness. As a work in pursuit of different, the greatest value of art rest with innovation, no matter in form, method, material, content and concept…… which also does not exclude critical viewpoints. If art takes external demands as its primary purpose, in the end, it will lose its reason for existing. Therefore, we know what makes an artwork separate from the ideology that produces it or gives it a reason to exist. “Art seeks no admiration but respect.” The transcendental art is very likely to fail to accommodate a mature, rigid or closed system in the current era. However, once the independent art point to the future, it will have a spiritual force similar to or even transcend politics and religion, leading human beings to progress in a positive direction. For example, as the father of modernist art, Marcel Duchamp liberated the definition of “art”, and his unconventional art idea – in the form of the famous “urinal”, severely hurt the pride of the High Culture that permeated European art salons. But his revolutionary idea was understood and embraced in the more open America. The American Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is the very institution that pushed his art and representative concept to the top. The forward-looking value made Duchamp the pioneer of modernist art, and also made New York the origin of modern art for its promotion of Duchamp’s idea, and became the center of world art and culture replacing London and Paris. The following art history of the 20th century was almost inseparable from various variations of this idea, and the development of art, orientation, economy and all other aspects after the 20th century always can’t get away from the United States. Duchamp is not American and does not represent the United States, but American art museums promoted the United States that represented by this concept through the confirmation of Duchamp’s academic status, and input this concept value back to Europe, letting the whole world to accept it. From this perspective, we can understand that the history of art acceptance is particularly important, especially for the art of the 20th century. And this is the gold mine that has not been fully understood and developed in the strategy of China’s national art museums. We will further analyze it in later chapters. 

Furthermore, the independence and neutrality of the art museum are tightly linked to public welfare (non-profit nature) of the art museum itself. The beneficiary of the art museum points to the public in a broad sense. Even if the actions of the art museum can benefit any member of the public or any representative government, organization, institution, group, individual, and so on, its rules of conduct are not subject to any existing interest groups. “The art museum must remain in touch with reality…… to give the public confidence in the integrity of its projects, it must assure them that its projects are the result of academic research based on equality, civility and justice.” In fact, artistic creation usually can’t disengage from the current social and political environment – especially contemporary art, and even closely connected to different types of social interactions. However, the independence of art requires the separation of artistic standards and the direct influence of social life. For art museums, in the process of selecting artworks and participating in the formulation of artistic standards, particularly for the contemporary art, how to “being part of it while staying out of it” and how to stick to intellectual resources and pure professions in the overall social environment are very important, as if the subtle mastery of the boundary is not properly handled, art and art museum will separate from their nature and thus lose the real value of existence. “It is dangerous for museums to engage in larger social or political agendas, which would be divorced from the practice of art history.” Because, once the art museum is subject to the sectarian power and needs to seek safety and security in economic and social status, and aesthetic choice, the art will run away for its own survival. Since the Vietnam war, our so-called politicized art has been steadily withdrawn from museums and galleries, and has gained a foothold on the streets……in a deinstitutionalized context…… in which the younger generation of activists are well aware of the aestheticized potential of seditious bulletins and exploit them. Art museums can be the most inclusive platforms for discussion of art projects involving political disputes and social issues, but these art creation projects themselves should not contain any political purpose. Such a stand of independence and neutrality is also the basic guarantee of the authority of art museums.

As mentioned above, the neutrality of art museum in religion and politics does not mean that art museums are not related to politics and government. The universalistic principle of connection and the theory of knowledge ecology tell us that the museum cannot be separated from its historical, natural, social, political and entire ecological environment, and is shaped by them. The museum also changes this system and environment through influencing the viewing, concept, knowledge structure and intellectual experience of people in this ecosystem. It is the universality of connection that highlights the importance of the museum’s independence that emphasized by professionalism in connection. It is also because of the critical position of the museum in the overall ecosystem that its role of neutrality has received increasing recognition from the perspective of professionalism. We stress the independence of the museum neither points to “anti-institution”, nor to the “antithesis of the government” in the view of “extremism” – so it is not really in line with the meaning of neutrality. Even the artists and works that are critical of the government may have a positive display on the country’s cultural inclusion and political image. For instance, during the cold war, the CIA secretly supported artists and exhibition that are critical of the United States through its foundations, aiming to arouse people’s interest and discussion on American culture and art from different perspectives, which fully embodied the openness, tolerance and diversity of American society. In fact, the development of art museums in any country cannot do without the support of the government, and the government of any county cannot avoid the existence of art museums and their functions for having a positive and significant influence on the administration. However, under different governing concepts and modes, the relationship between art museums and the government is different, and it is best to make use of it under the premise of respecting its professional law.

According to the research of Lu Juan in the article of “The Cultural Funding Mode of Foreign Government and its Enlightenment to China”, the national governing mode is generally divided into two categories: state-oriented and society-oriented. In the state-oriented mode, the state has the highest decision-making power among the three fields of state, society and market, and it takes an overall intervention in the society. While the society-oriented mode is just the opposite, as within it the state is only a kind of social organization, and is subordinate compared to society, with a very limited role. Different national governance modes have different tendencies in the ownership proportion of museums, and the government’s investment and intervention in museums are also different. “American art museums are primarily private institutions that are endowed with public status, while most of that in Europe are civic or national institutions.”

In America, where free market, free competition, and private property are valued, 59% of museums are set up by private institutions and 41% of museums are by all levels of governments. America has been a country without the ministry of culture since the Kennedy Administration, as the government believes that it can only play a limited, indirect and marginal role in the cultural field and that an administrative organization of officials and systems will turn art into a system, generating administrative department system, which is not good for the vitality of creation and the freedom of the artist. At the same time, it is thought that only the construction of art museums with mainly private capital can guarantee the freedom, vitality, and diversity of the American cultural system. Therefore, American art museums have about the highest proportion of private museums compared with other types of museums. Whether private or public art museums, almost all the museums (especially art museums) are built on private donations. Whether private or public art museums, all of that enjoy the national public welfare policy of assisting cultural and artistic undertakings – 501(c)  ( Tax exemption for non-profit organizations by the U.S. Federal Government ),  are actually “public-owned, public-operated” non-profit organizations. The central government of the United States does not directly fund culture and art enterprises, but through intermediary social organizations such as the national foundation, to selectively reflect its support for cultural and art cause within the specified scope (generally 10%, no more than 50% of the project). Cities, states, counties and others subsidizing art museums have nothing to do with whether the art museum is public or private. In this case, most of the financial resources required by the art museum come from society. Even if the state-owned art museums are not subject to governmental control, the government will act as a public spokesperson to exert pressure on the art museums when their activities deviate from the track (for example, when it involves human rights and ethnic issues). Regarding international cultural exchange, for instance, MoMA, as an independent private museum, not only plays a central role in the dissemination of modern art but actually undertook a mission to defend the overall interests of the United States. This is because when the US government cannot fulfill its responsibility due to opposition lawmakers in the Congress, the museums and some public foundations with partisan neutrality can continue to carry out the work initially started by the state department. Although many of these foundations may receive funds, even secret funds from CIA, or MoMA’s management may also overlap with the personnel of the state council, such as Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, who served successively as the president of MoMA and deputy secretary of state, and the Rockefeller Foundation has been the central supporting agency of MoMA for a long time. René d’ Harnoncourt, former director of MoMA, once was in charge of the art department of the American division of the state department. 

In France, a grant traditional culture country, cultural rights are regarded as the fundamental rights of the country as well as basic civil rights. The cultural administrative organization of the central government, the ministry of culture and communications, directly manages French cultural affairs by signing contracts with cultural institutions and groups, and most expenses of French cultural institutions and groups come from direct state grants. As a result, France’s non-profit art museums are mostly directly under the state and are largely at the mercy of the government.

Different from the United States which has no central government department of culture, and also different from France which is under the administration of the ministry of culture assigning government officials from the central to the local, the United Kingdom uniformly funds and manages the national cultural affairs through the non-governmental public culture institutions (quasi-official organizations). 

All of the country’s large cultural units, such as the British Museum, National Gallery, British Library and other organizations, operated independently and not directly under the ministry of culture, news and sports. Specific affairs are assigned to non-governmental public cultural institutions, such as Arts Council England, Arts and Crafts Association, Museums and Art Museums Association, and other organizations composed of experts, who are responsible for evaluating and allocating funds to various culture units. The government used indirect management to avoid excessive administrative intervention in art museums to prevent corruption, but at the same time, it was not wholly disengaged and lack of macro-control and planning, with its funding proportion apparently higher than that in the United States.

Actually, no matter who is the owner of the art museum, and either through the governmental control (France), the policy guidance that helps guarantee the funding source (US), or the indirect interventions from non-profit organizations (UK), the US, UK and France all preserve the character of the art museum as a non-profit organization with different systems and methods, and also ensures the neutrality of the art museum in religion and politics. For China, realizing the independence and neutrality of the art museum is to gain a lubricant for national and social development, which can internally alleviate many social problems caused by rapid economic growth. For example, one clear aim of London’s National Gallery is by encouraging the poor and the rich to “discover their common nature” so as to “cement the government order that binds the two classes together”. Externally, art museums can help China integrate quickly into global culture. 

Of course, there is no denying that on this issue, Chinese art museums have different backgrounds from those of western European developed countries, and thus, considering the experience of the West and adjusting ideas of developing Chinese characteristics are all in the scope of our discussion.

The Authority of the Intellect Production

Differing from the term “Knowledge”—obtain truth or information through experience and education, the term “Intellect” refers to the logic and ability to judge things and resolve contradictions. It comes from ancient Greek and philosophically is connected to the science of how people recognize things while psychologically it describes the highest level of people’s rational knowledge of the world.

In the section of “The History of the Art Museum”, we cite the research of Conn. S to introduce that the museum – as a way of people understanding the world at the end of the 19th century – has become a source of human intellect and value, and its once-owned irreplaceability. At the same time, we explain the reasons why the branch of the museum – art museum became unique in the process of decline in the museum’s intellect system in the 20th century. 

The authority of the art museum in intellect production is complementary to the other three properties of the art museum. It is authoritative because of its “social and cultural durability”, “democracy, publicity and non-profit character” and “religious and political neutrality”. Only by ensuring the three properties of the art museum, can its authority be fully reflected and its functions for humanity, nation, state and society be brought into full play. J. Wood states in the article of “The Academic Authority of the American Art Museums” that “art museums represent eight authorities: nurture, professionalism, hierarchy, memory, preservation, architecture, mission and leadership”. Among them, there are the emotional and psychological authority, such as “nurture, memory, mission”, etc., which not only represents the cold image of the art museum as the temple of the times or the holy land of art worship, but also represents the beautiful complex of the art museum as the habitat of human spirit. Alfred H.Barr Jr once proposed in 1944 that “the displayed objects of museums must be authoritative representations of the various departments of the museum to the audience. They become a permanent and clear demonstration of art museums’ core activities, operation range, judgment standards, tastes and values, working principle and faith in art.” As David Carr said in “Museum News” in 2011, 

“museums are institutions that convey the influence, value and authority. Its inherent influence comes from the treasures of its collections and the mastery of knowledge and information.”  While Michael Kimmelman wrote in the “New York Times” in 2001 that “art museums must re-examine their authority on the definition of beauty in order to recover the value of art.” What we are talking about here is the authority of intellect production, such as “hierarchy, professionalism and leadership” and so on. In this book, we summarize the authority of intellect in three aspects.

Firstly, in the history of art development, even if art museums are not really judges of art standards, they are a key deciding factor of why art has become art, although such authority tends to weaken nowadays. Our surroundings present themselves through a certain form, while the only purpose of art is to show this form. That is why in the process of realizing the value of art, being observed is an indispensable step. As the art museum mainly takes the role as the public space for art appreciation, it has ensured its central position in art ecology and human intellect production during the development of the museum. The German scholar, Hans Belting has declared the integral position of art museums in the establishment of art standards from another perspective. He thinks that art has “a universal validity that is not affected by the times”, and “art, like human rights, is eternal and general”. A single art does not constitute such a force and only when art enters art history can those “arts” that forms art history have this power. And invented by human beings, the art museum is a place where all the individual arts can share the universal principles of art. Cuba’s contemporary curator, Gerardo Mosquera, has said, the value assessment of contemporary art is highly dependent on the circulation of art, the promoted major networks as well as these networks’ ability to accept or reject them. Of course, we do not deny that art history is not created by art museums independently, but by the critical discourse mechanism (art museum, art gallery, college and market) and various public media together. Today, foundations, arts economics, art consultants and artists themselves become the co-builders of credibility and standards in art production. Because of this, we can clearly find that the art museum with publicity, democracy, non-profit character, independence, and neutrality is not only an important part of it but also highlights its authority due to its stance in the process. That is why even “in the field of art, the artists of the 1960s had abandoned art museums, and Avant-Garde (Minimalism, Land Art and Conceptual Art) artists all explicitly stated that art museums were tombs of art”. In the art theory circle, from Arthur Danto’s “The End of Art” to Hans Belting’s “Non-museum theory”, and then to the “Museum Skepticism – A History of the Display of Art in Public Galleries” wrote by David Carrier, a famous American contemporary art theorists, all refer to the death of artworks that separated from society, history and reality after entering the art museum. Even so, being collected, exhibited and published by art museums has long been seen as a measure of the value of artworks – because “a civilization without a tomb is unthinkable (Chen Danqing)”. Moreover, just as Boris Groys considers that the museum is “a machine producing and showing today’s new art – that is, a machine that produces today itself”. The nature of the museum – seeking new, distinguishing new, establishing new and collecting new, has made “the museum system not only not come to an end but become eternally renewed in today when art and art history are ‘terminated’”. 

Second, in the development of contemporary art museums, the enhanced tendency of paying attention to present artistic creation and evolution, increasingly activated some rigid restrictions on artworks by art museums in the “theory of art museums were tombs of art”, and made contemporary museums become a huge experimental field for idea, criticism, suggestion, creation, and unceasing redefinition, “through collaboration and convergence with other fields and disciplines – from literature, music, architecture, drama to social and economic activities……a new world is being constantly imagined, conceived, formed, tested and questioned”. For example, the time-honored British Museum attaches great importance to keeping pace with the current art world and expects to establish a relationship of historical inheritance, digging out its classic collection and their traditional value. One example is that in 2011, British Museum commissioned Xu Bing to create the work “Background Story 7”, which employed contemporary media (mostly waste) to create an installation inspired by a Chinese landscape painting by Wang Shimin of the Qing Dynasty from the museum’s collection. Thus, the art museum became the best place to publish the cutting-edge works of the times, which, along with the exploration of the newest art form, is also in line with the public’s expectations for the authority of art museums. These artistic creations, which are continually updated with the changing trend of the times, must undergo periodic precipitation to identify their value, and the art museum is just such a purification mechanism. At the same time, many new trends of contemporary artistic creation and dissemination, such as cross-discipline, interactivity, multimedia, digitalization, and others provided many new opportunities for art museums to support the development of art – especially through the construction of the public service platform of the artists. This kind of “initiative” can constitute a guiding force for art, culture and society, which is precisely the embodiment of the authority of the art museum. 

In addition, the art museum can be said to have established the material culture of society. The collection, classification and exhibition of exhibits should be understood as the exercise of power. Every installation or display of the collection is an attempt to give an interpretation of the collection, an understanding of the art history, and most importantly, an exposition of the art museum as a center of wisdom and art activities. The idea of establishing an art museum provided an environment and also works that can support this idea; thus a center of intellect, culture and social activities is born. This kind of intellect means that art museums enable people to pay more attention to their surroundings by stimulating them to think and communicate. That is to say, the work of the art museum is based on its own cultural consciousness and value concept. In the process of describing and shaping art phenomenon, the art museum studied, carded and refined material culture mode that formed by social development to produce a more substantial work, and spread it to the public through public space and platform with extensive influence. It cultivates the public’s appreciation and understanding of art, thus to form a force to promote social consensus, which is also the source of the cultural initiative of art museums that we emphasize.

Based on the above descriptions, in order to further explain the problem, we take the Louvre Museum as an example to analyze the birth of the intellect authority of the art museum. Since its establishment, the Louvre Museum has existed as a public cultural resource. The artistic treasures left by the French dynasties (mainly Bourbon Dynasty at that time) represent the highest art standards of the French people in each period and reflect the historical and cultural features as well as the social development of France in each period. The staff of the museum classified and arranged the collection according to the development of art schools and styles. With full consideration of the convenience of public communication, they enabled the Louvre Museum to become an art collection store and archives of art research for the common material and cultural heritage of mankind, indicating that the museum is independent of thinking and no longer subject to any sectarian regime. The Louvre Museum has preserved the best cultural traditions of France, and its vivid presentation has benefited generations of French people and even visitors from all over the world. With its existence, the museum has shown the unique value of French culture to the world. To this day, the Louvre Museum has become synonymous with France and a symbol of French culture and even the advanced modern culture of the world. If the artworks in the Louvre Museum are only taken as the aesthetic objects, as the specific presentation of aesthetic experience and artistic taste, then the loss of the meaning of these artworks will be significant. At that time, there were numerous collections accumulated by the French royal families and nobles. Which collections were displayed, how to display them, together with which collections and where to display them, how to promote them – all these choices and judgments still influence the relevant work of the museum today. From ancient times to the Renaissance, ancient Greece, ancient Egypt and ancient Rome, collections were arranged by time and region. In the large three-story gallery space on the south side of the Louvre Museum, highlighted the masterpieces of French historical painting of the late 18th and 19th centuries, including Jacques Louis David’s “Oath of the Horatii”(1784-1785), “The Death of Marat” (1793),  “Napoleon Crossing the St. Bernard Pass” (1801), “Napoleon Holding Josephine's Crown” (1804-1807), and Eugène Delacroi’s “Liberty Leading the People” (1831), and so on. It can be seen that France, which is known as an inclusive country of world culture, has not forgotten to highlight its historical glory in its art museums. The choice made on the basis of ensuring professionalism is subjective and biased, and the result of choice eventually becomes an objective and universal art history. These works reflect the national spirit of France and also confirm the history of France heading towards modern times since the French Revolution. They are displayed forever in the Louvre Museum and become the most important classics to attract visitors and researchers. This is by no means a random act, but an expression of the will of the art museum, which shows the cultural position and intention of the collector (collection institution). The knowledge that museums intend to disseminate is not, in essence, neutral. Intellect is a social product that reflects the power relations in our society. Art museums spread beauty and culture, but what is beauty and what kind of culture should be inherited? The judgment of art museums on these issues essentially constitute cultural privilege or even economic privilege. As a result, the art museum has become the perfect place to study the interlaced history of power and cultural forms. 

In terms of contemporary art museums, because the value judgment of modern art is often accompanied by controversy and variable, compared to those classical art museums with conclusive masterworks that entered into art history, contemporary art museums or the contemporary departments of art museums play more the role of a forum rather than a referee. When the modern art museum becomes a place to listen to different voices, it was these rich and diverse voices that rendered them to be evaluated at a certain stage. Therefore, the authority of the art museum runs through its whole process. In fact, since the middle 1960s, institutional criticism has become an important trend in post-modern practice. The social and political unrest of the 1960s has led artists to question institutional values, including the value of museums, and many essential artists have used their works to reveal the ideology implied in museum narratives. Then, by the late 1980s and early 1990s, artists were more involved in the work content of art museums and tried to raise public awareness of the power system within cultural institutions. Just because art is such a creation and activity that seeks innovation, change and controversy, and while promoting this kind of creation, the art museum becomes an embracer questioning the intellect system of the museum, making the authority of the art museum avoid being limited to a rigid authority. 

The authority of intellect production possessed by art museums, in an open and democratic society, is acquired through the influence on the public, and there is no absolute authority anymore. The power of the art museum is established on the basis of publicity. The way that art museums convey authority is also through a process of professional sharing to the public (non-professional) receiving and then to public judgment. The most straight appearance of the art museum is that it can affect the value of artworks – not the pricing power, so it can be easily abused and thus lead to the loss of authority. To have a authority in the democratic society, museums must be creative in maintaining the relationship between showing professionalism and questioning assumptions and even be brave to take the initiative to find the fallacy in their own systems. Art museums need to exploit their authority as wisely as possible to inspire pure aesthetic experience, or they will lose their imagination and thus their authority. However, some characteristics of the ecological development of Western contemporary art are weakening the power of the art museum as intellect producers. In this era of art change, in fact, our base, position, resource, system and other foundations are very different from international art museums. According to our situation of the socialism with Chinese characteristics, how to construct an art museum feature that is independent of the market and neutral out of the system, and make this feature serve the public, we will discuss further in the following chapters.



Child Public Education Reservation Form

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Adult Public Education Event Reservation Form

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Group Public Education Event Reservation Form

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Group Visit Agreement
and Statement

CAFA Art Museum Publication Authorization Agreement

I fully agree to CAFA Art Museum (CAFAM) submitting to CAFA for publication the images, pictures, texts, writings, and event products (such as works created during participation in workshops) related to me from my participation in public events (including museum member events) organized by the CAFA Art Museum Public Education Department. CAFA can publish these materials by electronic, web, or other digital means, and I hereby agree to be included in the China Knowledge Resource Bank, the CAFA Database, the CAFA Art Museum Database, and related data, documentation, and filing institutions and platforms. Regarding their use in CAFA and dissemination on the internet, I agree to make use of these rights according to the stated Rules.

CAFA Art Museum Event Safety Disclaimer

Article I

This event was organized on the principles of fairness, impartiality, and voluntary participation and withdrawal. Participants undertake all risk and liability for themselves. All events have risks, and participants must be aware of the risks related to their chosen event.

Article II

Event participants must abide by the laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China, as well as moral and ethical norms. All participants must demonstrate good character, respect for others, friendship, and a willingness to help others.

Article III

Event participants should be adults (people 18 years or older with full civil legal capacity). Underage persons must be accompanied by an adult.

Article IV

Event participants undertake all liability for their personal safety during the event, and event participants are encouraged to purchase personal safety insurance. Should an accident occur during an event, persons not involved in the accident and the museum do not undertake any liability for the accident, but both have the obligation to provide assistance. Event participants should actively organize and implement rescue efforts, but do not undertake any legal or economic liability for the accident itself. The museum does not undertake civil or joint liability for the personal safety of event participants.

Article V

During the event, event participants should respect the order of the museum event and ensure the safety of the museum site, the artworks in displays, exhibitions, and collections, and the derived products. If an event causes any degree of loss or damage to the museum site, space, artworks, or derived products due to an individual, persons not involved in the accident and the museum do not undertake any liability for losses. The event participant must negotiate and provide compensation according to the relevant legal statutes and museum rules. The museum may sue for legal and financial liability.

Article VI

Event participants will participate in the event under the guidance of museum staff and event leaders or instructors and must correctly use the painting tools, materials, equipment, and/or facilities provided for the event. If a participant causes injury or harm to him/herself or others while using the painting tools, materials, equipment, and/or facilities, or causes the damage or destruction of the tools, materials, equipment, and/or facilities, the event participant must undertake all related liability and provide compensation for the financial losses. Persons not involved in the accident and the museum do not undertake any liability for personal accidents.

CAFA Art Museum Portraiture Rights Licensing Agreement

According to The Advertising Law of the People’s Republic of China, The General Principles of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China, and The Provisional Opinions of the Supreme People’s Court on Some Issues Related to the Full Implementation of the General Principles of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China, and upon friendly negotiation, Party A and Party B have arrived at the following agreement regarding the use of works bearing Party A’s image in order to clarify the rights and obligations of the portrait licenser (Party A) and the user (Party B):

I. General Provisions

(1) Party A is the portraiture rights holder in this agreement. Party A voluntarily licenses its portraiture rights to Party B for the purposes stipulated in this agreement and permitted by law.

(2) Party B (CAFA Art Museum) is a specialized, international modern art museum. CAFA Art Museum keeps pace with the times, and works to create an open, free, and academic space and atmosphere for positive interaction with groups, corporations, institutions, artists, and visitors. With CAFA’s academic research as a foundation, the museum plans multi-disciplinary exhibitions, conferences, and public education events with participants from around the world, providing a platform for exchange, learning, and exhibition for CAFA’s students and instructors, artists from around the world, and the general public. As a public institution, the primary purposes of CAFA Art Museum’s public education events are academic and beneficial to society.

(3) Party B will photograph all CAFA Public Education Department events for Party A.

II. Content, Forms of Use, and Geographical Scope of Use

(1) Content. The content of images taken by Party B bearing Party A’s likeness include: ① CAFA Art Museum ② CAFA campus ③ All events planned or executed by the CAFAM Public Education Department.

(2) Forms of Use. For use in CAFA’s publications, products with CDs, and promotional materials.

(3) Geographical Scope of Use

The applicable geographic scope is global.

The media in which the portraiture may be used encompasses any media that does not infringe upon Party A’s portraiture rights (e.g., magazines and the internet).

III. Term of Portraiture Rights Use

Use in perpetuity.

IV. Licensing Fees

The fees for images bearing Party A’s likeness will be undertaken by Party B.

After completion, Party B does not need to pay any fees to Party A for images bearing Party A’s likeness.

Additional Terms

(1) All matters not discussed in this agreement shall be resolved through friendly negotiation between both parties. Both parties may then sign a supplementary agreement, provided it does not violate any laws or regulations.

(2) This agreement comes into effect on the date that it is signed (sealed) and the relevant boxes are selected by Party A and Party B.

(3) This agreement exists in paper and electronic forms. The paper form is made in duplicate, with Party A and Party B each retaining one copy with the same legal efficacy.

Event participants implicitly accept and undertake all the obligations stated in this agreement. Those who do not consent will be seen as abandoning the right to participate in this event. Before participating in this event, please speak to your family members to obtain their consent and inform them of this disclaimer. After participants sign/check the required box, participants and their families will be seen as having read and agreed to these terms.

I have carefully read and agree to the above provisions.

Group Visit Agreement
and Statement

CAFA Art Museum Publication Authorization Agreement

I fully agree to CAFA Art Museum (CAFAM) submitting to CAFA for publication the images, pictures, texts, writings, and event products (such as works created during participation in workshops) related to me from my participation in public events (including museum member events) organized by the CAFA Art Museum Public Education Department. CAFA can publish these materials by electronic, web, or other digital means, and I hereby agree to be included in the China Knowledge Resource Bank, the CAFA Database, the CAFA Art Museum Database, and related data, documentation, and filing institutions and platforms. Regarding their use in CAFA and dissemination on the internet, I agree to make use of these rights according to the stated Rules.

CAFA Art Museum Event Safety Disclaimer

Article I

This event was organized on the principles of fairness, impartiality, and voluntary participation and withdrawal. Participants undertake all risk and liability for themselves. All events have risks, and participants must be aware of the risks related to their chosen event.

Article II

Event participants must abide by the laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China, as well as moral and ethical norms. All participants must demonstrate good character, respect for others, friendship, and a willingness to help others.

Article III

Event participants should be adults (people 18 years or older with full civil legal capacity). Underage persons must be accompanied by an adult.

Article IV

Event participants undertake all liability for their personal safety during the event, and event participants are encouraged to purchase personal safety insurance. Should an accident occur during an event, persons not involved in the accident and the museum do not undertake any liability for the accident, but both have the obligation to provide assistance. Event participants should actively organize and implement rescue efforts, but do not undertake any legal or economic liability for the accident itself. The museum does not undertake civil or joint liability for the personal safety of event participants.

Article V

During the event, event participants should respect the order of the museum event and ensure the safety of the museum site, the artworks in displays, exhibitions, and collections, and the derived products. If an event causes any degree of loss or damage to the museum site, space, artworks, or derived products due to an individual, persons not involved in the accident and the museum do not undertake any liability for losses. The event participant must negotiate and provide compensation according to the relevant legal statutes and museum rules. The museum may sue for legal and financial liability.

Article VI

Event participants will participate in the event under the guidance of museum staff and event leaders or instructors and must correctly use the painting tools, materials, equipment, and/or facilities provided for the event. If a participant causes injury or harm to him/herself or others while using the painting tools, materials, equipment, and/or facilities, or causes the damage or destruction of the tools, materials, equipment, and/or facilities, the event participant must undertake all related liability and provide compensation for the financial losses. Persons not involved in the accident and the museum do not undertake any liability for personal accidents.

CAFA Art Museum Portraiture Rights Licensing Agreement

According to The Advertising Law of the People’s Republic of China, The General Principles of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China, and The Provisional Opinions of the Supreme People’s Court on Some Issues Related to the Full Implementation of the General Principles of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China, and upon friendly negotiation, Party A and Party B have arrived at the following agreement regarding the use of works bearing Party A’s image in order to clarify the rights and obligations of the portrait licenser (Party A) and the user (Party B):

I. General Provisions

(1) Party A is the portraiture rights holder in this agreement. Party A voluntarily licenses its portraiture rights to Party B for the purposes stipulated in this agreement and permitted by law.

(2) Party B (CAFA Art Museum) is a specialized, international modern art museum. CAFA Art Museum keeps pace with the times, and works to create an open, free, and academic space and atmosphere for positive interaction with groups, corporations, institutions, artists, and visitors. With CAFA’s academic research as a foundation, the museum plans multi-disciplinary exhibitions, conferences, and public education events with participants from around the world, providing a platform for exchange, learning, and exhibition for CAFA’s students and instructors, artists from around the world, and the general public. As a public institution, the primary purposes of CAFA Art Museum’s public education events are academic and beneficial to society.

(3) Party B will photograph all CAFA Public Education Department events for Party A.

II. Content, Forms of Use, and Geographical Scope of Use

(1) Content. The content of images taken by Party B bearing Party A’s likeness include: ① CAFA Art Museum ② CAFA campus ③ All events planned or executed by the CAFAM Public Education Department.

(2) Forms of Use. For use in CAFA’s publications, products with CDs, and promotional materials.

(3) Geographical Scope of Use

The applicable geographic scope is global.

The media in which the portraiture may be used encompasses any media that does not infringe upon Party A’s portraiture rights (e.g., magazines and the internet).

III. Term of Portraiture Rights Use

Use in perpetuity.

IV. Licensing Fees

The fees for images bearing Party A’s likeness will be undertaken by Party B.

After completion, Party B does not need to pay any fees to Party A for images bearing Party A’s likeness.

Additional Terms

(1) All matters not discussed in this agreement shall be resolved through friendly negotiation between both parties. Both parties may then sign a supplementary agreement, provided it does not violate any laws or regulations.

(2) This agreement comes into effect on the date that it is signed (sealed) and the relevant boxes are selected by Party A and Party B.

(3) This agreement exists in paper and electronic forms. The paper form is made in duplicate, with Party A and Party B each retaining one copy with the same legal efficacy.

Event participants implicitly accept and undertake all the obligations stated in this agreement. Those who do not consent will be seen as abandoning the right to participate in this event. Before participating in this event, please speak to your family members to obtain their consent and inform them of this disclaimer. After participants sign/check the required box, participants and their families will be seen as having read and agreed to these terms.

I have carefully read and agree to the above provisions.

Group Visit Agreement
and Statement

CAFA Art Museum Publication Authorization Agreement

I fully agree to CAFA Art Museum (CAFAM) submitting to CAFA for publication the images, pictures, texts, writings, and event products (such as works created during participation in workshops) related to me from my participation in public events (including museum member events) organized by the CAFA Art Museum Public Education Department. CAFA can publish these materials by electronic, web, or other digital means, and I hereby agree to be included in the China Knowledge Resource Bank, the CAFA Database, the CAFA Art Museum Database, and related data, documentation, and filing institutions and platforms. Regarding their use in CAFA and dissemination on the internet, I agree to make use of these rights according to the stated Rules.

CAFA Art Museum Event Safety Disclaimer

Article I

This event was organized on the principles of fairness, impartiality, and voluntary participation and withdrawal. Participants undertake all risk and liability for themselves. All events have risks, and participants must be aware of the risks related to their chosen event.

Article II

Event participants must abide by the laws and regulations of the People’s Republic of China, as well as moral and ethical norms. All participants must demonstrate good character, respect for others, friendship, and a willingness to help others.

Article III

Event participants should be adults (people 18 years or older with full civil legal capacity). Underage persons must be accompanied by an adult.

Article IV

Event participants undertake all liability for their personal safety during the event, and event participants are encouraged to purchase personal safety insurance. Should an accident occur during an event, persons not involved in the accident and the museum do not undertake any liability for the accident, but both have the obligation to provide assistance. Event participants should actively organize and implement rescue efforts, but do not undertake any legal or economic liability for the accident itself. The museum does not undertake civil or joint liability for the personal safety of event participants.

Article V

During the event, event participants should respect the order of the museum event and ensure the safety of the museum site, the artworks in displays, exhibitions, and collections, and the derived products. If an event causes any degree of loss or damage to the museum site, space, artworks, or derived products due to an individual, persons not involved in the accident and the museum do not undertake any liability for losses. The event participant must negotiate and provide compensation according to the relevant legal statutes and museum rules. The museum may sue for legal and financial liability.

Article VI

Event participants will participate in the event under the guidance of museum staff and event leaders or instructors and must correctly use the painting tools, materials, equipment, and/or facilities provided for the event. If a participant causes injury or harm to him/herself or others while using the painting tools, materials, equipment, and/or facilities, or causes the damage or destruction of the tools, materials, equipment, and/or facilities, the event participant must undertake all related liability and provide compensation for the financial losses. Persons not involved in the accident and the museum do not undertake any liability for personal accidents.

CAFA Art Museum Portraiture Rights Licensing Agreement

According to The Advertising Law of the People’s Republic of China, The General Principles of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China, and The Provisional Opinions of the Supreme People’s Court on Some Issues Related to the Full Implementation of the General Principles of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China, and upon friendly negotiation, Party A and Party B have arrived at the following agreement regarding the use of works bearing Party A’s image in order to clarify the rights and obligations of the portrait licenser (Party A) and the user (Party B):

I. General Provisions

(1) Party A is the portraiture rights holder in this agreement. Party A voluntarily licenses its portraiture rights to Party B for the purposes stipulated in this agreement and permitted by law.

(2) Party B (CAFA Art Museum) is a specialized, international modern art museum. CAFA Art Museum keeps pace with the times, and works to create an open, free, and academic space and atmosphere for positive interaction with groups, corporations, institutions, artists, and visitors. With CAFA’s academic research as a foundation, the museum plans multi-disciplinary exhibitions, conferences, and public education events with participants from around the world, providing a platform for exchange, learning, and exhibition for CAFA’s students and instructors, artists from around the world, and the general public. As a public institution, the primary purposes of CAFA Art Museum’s public education events are academic and beneficial to society.

(3) Party B will photograph all CAFA Public Education Department events for Party A.

II. Content, Forms of Use, and Geographical Scope of Use

(1) Content. The content of images taken by Party B bearing Party A’s likeness include: ① CAFA Art Museum ② CAFA campus ③ All events planned or executed by the CAFAM Public Education Department.

(2) Forms of Use. For use in CAFA’s publications, products with CDs, and promotional materials.

(3) Geographical Scope of Use

The applicable geographic scope is global.

The media in which the portraiture may be used encompasses any media that does not infringe upon Party A’s portraiture rights (e.g., magazines and the internet).

III. Term of Portraiture Rights Use

Use in perpetuity.

IV. Licensing Fees

The fees for images bearing Party A’s likeness will be undertaken by Party B.

After completion, Party B does not need to pay any fees to Party A for images bearing Party A’s likeness.

Additional Terms

(1) All matters not discussed in this agreement shall be resolved through friendly negotiation between both parties. Both parties may then sign a supplementary agreement, provided it does not violate any laws or regulations.

(2) This agreement comes into effect on the date that it is signed (sealed) and the relevant boxes are selected by Party A and Party B.

(3) This agreement exists in paper and electronic forms. The paper form is made in duplicate, with Party A and Party B each retaining one copy with the same legal efficacy.

Event participants implicitly accept and undertake all the obligations stated in this agreement. Those who do not consent will be seen as abandoning the right to participate in this event. Before participating in this event, please speak to your family members to obtain their consent and inform them of this disclaimer. After participants sign/check the required box, participants and their families will be seen as having read and agreed to these terms.

I have carefully read and agree to the above provisions.

Event Booking Form

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