Mike O’Hare’s list of constraints on public consumption of works of visual art (see below) omits my personal candidate: museum opening hours. If a supermarket can figure out how to stay open 24/7, why can’t museums at least be open until midnight three nights a weekend?
Again, Mike’s analysis is right: if museums were held accountable, internally or externally, for earning a decent return (in the form of quality-adjusted viewer-hours) on their billions of dollars’ worth of invested capital (in the form of works of art), it would be obvious that they can’t afford to be closed for such a large proportion of prime viewing hours. Current hours are convenient mostly for ladies who lunch: a worthy audience, no doubt, but not the only audience.
When the phrase “museum date” re-enters the language, we’ll know museum managers are starting to think like marketers rather than custodians.