Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
Glenn Adamson recently stepped down from his directorship at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle, after serving that position for a little less than three years. He had been the head of the research department at London’s Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum, where he worked from 2005 to 2013, when he received his appointment at MAD. Having had central management roles in significant art institutions in both New York and London, Adamson is now in the unique position of being able to decide where he wants to live and work while pursuing his next major project. As a museum scholar who has also had experience in both New York and London, I wanted to ask Adamson about his experience working in the two distinct museum environments and found that he has key insights on the challenges and benefits particular to each context.
Seph Rodney: .... Maybe we can start the conversation by talking a bit about how you think the different cultures might approach collecting differently.
Glenn Adamson: I think the biggest difference in general, which applies to collecting as well as other issues, is that in London and in Europe broadly, museums are considered more of a civic property — and this is obvious, but important to say — funding is largely governmental with some contributions from private citizens and corporations, and that’s growing as a kind of Americanization process unfolds. In America, though, you have a much longer tradition of private philanthropy and I think that also applies to collecting, in the sense that you have many more private collectors, active in the art, design, and craft fields in this country than you do in the UK. That really does change the landscape of artistic production and creativity. In Europe, it’s probably more difficult to become very financially successful as an artist, but there’s a safety net.
In some places, including Scandinavia, there is such active support for artists that they are almost insulated from the market entirely. Whereas in America, artists tend to be exposed to the market very suddenly and sometimes brutally, but then they can also become much more successful here than they would have a chance at being in Europe. It’s a much more high-stakes, more capital-intensive situation here and that definitely plays out in terms of collecting.