Rosemary Willink, University of Queensland, School of Architecture, Australia
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the public opening of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, reigniting debates about museums and their potential to influence economic growth. Twenty years on, the sector has taken many lessons from this bold project. “If you build it they will come at least for a while,” is a play on words by The Art Newspaper to describe the attendance trend line for recently built or enhanced museums. This will not, however, stem the tide of new museums being built by celebrity architects, driven by visitation figures and the likelihood of success when raising donations for new capital projects, as opposed to critical asset replacement or staff salaries. The Bilbao Effect has turned 20, and new infrastructures for cultural institutions are now emerging, such as Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa’s innovation hub “Mahuki,” and the Australian Centre for Moving Image (ACMI) co-working space ACMI X. This paper will draw from a number of recent examples of risk-taking across the cultural sector—both public and private—to build a better understanding of the implications for museums adopting new business models, and what “core business” means today.
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