Collecting the New
Museums and Contemporary Art
Edited by Bruce Altshuler


Collecting the New is the first book on the questions and challenges that museums face in acquiring and preserving contemporary art. Because such art has not yet withstood the test of time, it defies the traditional understanding of the art museum as an institution that collects and displays works of long-established aesthetic and historical value. By acquiring such art, museums gamble on the future. In addition, new technologies and alternative conceptions of the artwork have created special problems of conservation, while social, political, and aesthetic changes have generated new categories of works to be collected.

Following Bruce Altshuler's introduction on the European and American history of museum collecting of art by living artists, the book comprises newly commissioned essays by twelve distinguished curators representing a wide range of museums. First considered are general issues including the acquisition process, and collecting by universal survey museums and museums that focus on modern and contemporary art. Following are groups of essays that address collecting in particular media, including prints and drawings, new (digital) media, and film and video; and national- and ethnic-specific collecting (contemporary art from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and African-American art). The closing essay examines the conservation problems created by contemporary works--for example, what is to be done when deterioration is the artist's intent?

The contributors are Christophe Cherix, Vishakha N. Desai, Steve Dietz, Howard N. Fox, Chrissie Iles and Henriette Huldisch, Pamela McClusky, Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, Lowery Stokes Sims, Robert Storr, Jeffrey Weiss, and Glenn Wharton.

Bruce Altshuler is Director of the Program in Museum Studies at New York University and former Director of the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, New York. His books include The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century and Isamu Noguchi.