The Role of the Art Museum is Topic of University of Virginia's McIntire Lecture on March 27

March 13, 2008 — James Steward, director of the University of Michigan Museum of Art, will give the McIntire Lecture at the University of Virginia on Thursday, March 27, 6 p.m. in Campbell Hall, room 158. In his talk, "The Art Museum in the 21st Century: Temple or Town Square?," Steward will discuss two seemingly contradictory directions in which today's museums are moving: a response to populism and the museum as destination architecture.

Many American museums owe their origins to Victorian theories of improvement for the working classes, even as they created temples for viewing objects treated in nearly sacred terms. For the last 30 or more years, many art museums have placed great emphasis on accessibility, developing their focus on objects to concentrate on audience in what could be perceived as a return to beginnings. With more museum buildings built in the past 10 years than perhaps at any other time in the last century, from the construction of the Bilbao Guggenheim to such dramatic structures as the Calatrava Pavilion in Milwaukee to the Libeskind-designed Denver Art Museum, art museums have been described "the gothic cathedrals of our time." This talk will explore the mission of art museums and propose a new model for incorporating the art museum into the civic dialogue without losing sight of the art within.

For information about the talk, contact Francesca Fiorani at (434) 243-8649 or