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Do museums have an obligation to be "moral"?

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NYT discusses recent demonstrations at the Louvre against major oil company sponsors, and expands that into a truth telling inquiry. Do the Met's Egyptian galleries have an obligation toward serfs, buried with their master, their only obligation in the after world to serve their master?


Holland Cotter notes that art is created to express something. Often something which is pleasing to the guy paying the artist. But, is that an acceptable interpretation today? Just because something was OK 500 years bce doesn't mean it should be unquestioned today.




This leaves forms of art that helped create and police the moral universe we inhabit today inaccessible. It’s an art about being saved or damned, with religious authorities wielding the judicial or executive power to decide which. Clerics of many religions are still making those edicts, with dire consequences for the lives and psyches of millions of people.

All these interpretive readings are incomplete, debatable, correctable. But all point to the indisputable fact that, throughout history, art has created and reflected realities that remain deterministic. The Met, like many of our most powerful and visible museums, doesn’t tell such stories in its permanent galleries, and hasn’t in the disappointingly traditionalist inaugural display in the Breuer building it is leasing from the Whitney. But a recent temporary exhibition at the Met, “Kongo: Power and Majesty,” did.




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