In Lean Times, New Ways to Reach Out
March 19, 2009, The New York Times — Some 150 yoga fanatics, mats in hand, gathered in the second-floor atrium of the Museum of Modern Art one recent Saturday morning. They were there to “Put the oM in MoMA,” as the invitation read.
Assembled in a circle, the group practiced poses while on the walls surrounding them flowed giant images of budding tulips, slithering worms and a pig in a verdant meadow biting into a juicy apple, all part of the Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist’s monumental video installation “Pour Your Body Out (7354 Cubic Meters).” The free 75-minute class was such a success that there is talk of holding another in the museum’s sculpture garden.
“In these difficult times we want to hit as many buttons as we can,” said Glenn D. Lowry, director of the museum. “We’re doing everything possible to connect with people.”
So is the Hammer Museum, part of the University of California, Los Angeles. The artist Lisa Anne Auerbach has organized a bike night at the museum for April 16, during which bicyclists can ride into its courtyard.
“We will have valet parking for the bikes,” said the museum’s director, Ann Philbin. “In a city like Los Angeles, people are finding excuses to get together without going to expensive restaurants.” The gathering will include cocktails and a screening of the movie “Breaking Away.”
Yoga classes and bicycle get-togethers may not be your typical museum fare, but in these rough economic times, anything goes.
The downturn has hit museums hard, with plummeting endowments, dwindling donations, fewer tourists and the decline of the corporate museum party, once a steady revenue stream. Museums have been forced to freeze hiring or lay off staff members, close satellite shops and make other cutbacks.
But lean times are bringing out a pioneering spirit as museum officials strive to develop creative strategies for what is undeniably a new world.