Wandering Eye: The future of art museums, President Obama shirks FOIA, and more

The spring issue of the journal Democracy has a pretty fascinating essay by Michael O'Hare on the purpose and future of art museums. It's a long, multifaceted read, but one of his main points is that "The purpose of an art museum is more, better engagement with art. Anything a museum does that can't be connected back to this goal is peripheral and incidental." One way that museums are failing to fulfill this purpose, in O'Hare's eyes, is the huge number of artworks that museums hang onto but don't actually exhibit—"For every object on view, another 20 are in storage; almost none will ever be displayed," he writes. Part of the reason why museums amass huge volumes of work that they might not display is because of a rule in the museum directors' code of ethics that says museums cannot ever sell art except to buy more art—but O'Hare argues, "What the no-sale provision is good for is to protect the big old museums [like the Metropolitan Museum of Art], which have collections far larger than they can ever show, from even thinking about having to share [with smaller museums] . . . It's about managerial comfort and institutional prestige, and has nothing to do with the public interest." There are plenty of other interesting arguments, too, on digitizing art, exhibit design, and admission charges. A crucial read for anyone with an interest in arts policy. (H/T to Rachel Cohen for the link.) (Anna Walsh)


The cocaine-conspiracy case against Anthony Vasiliades, owner of the famed Sip & Bite Restaurant, and his co-conspirator Minas Politis, who owns Opa Express in Baltimore's Northeast Market, has been disposed of in Virginia federal court. Both men pled guilty last week, with sentencing scheduled for June, when they face prison sentences of five to 40 years. Looks like Vasiliades' days of chumming up to law enforcers—in 2010, Sip & Bite donated $500 to Baltimore County Sheriff Raymond Fisher—are over. (Van Smith)


USA Today noticed that President Barack Obama quietly and formally exempted his White House staff from the last bit of Freedom of Information Act accountability that still (sort of) governed it. The Office of Administration handles record keeping for the president—including archiving of emails—and, until George W. Bush decided it was exempt from the public records act, journalists and others were able to use it to peer into the doings of every President from Gerald Ford to Bill Clinton. "The White House said the cleanup of FOIA regulations is consistent with court rulings that hold that the office is not subject to the transparency law," USA Today reported. The irony of making the move during "Sunshine Week," when journalists celebrate and advocate for stronger open records laws, and in the midst of controversy over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton keeping her official emails on a server in her residence, was lost on no one. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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