Art Museum, Exhibition Reviews

Museo Jumex Review

No Comments 24 January 2014

Where is the Art ?

Where is the Art ?

“Definition: Curate, noun, 1: one who has the care of souls, 2: as assistant or a deputy of a rector or vicar in the churches of the Anglican communion and in the Roman Catholic Church”
— Webster’s Third Edition

“What is the Basic Responsibility of a Museum ?”

My wife and I have been living in Mexico City for more than two years. I travel for work in California, New York and Asia. Since moving to Mexico we have seen an explosion of new and renovated museums, including the excellent Museo Tamayo and Museo Soumaya (in the interest of full disclosure I worked on the opening of MIDE). In Mexico there is a quickly expanding middle class with a hunger to understand the world.

On a Sunday morning, my wife and I decided to visit the Museo Jumex. This museum is located in “Nuevo Polanco”, a shopping district.

Our visit to the museum begins at 11 a.m. The lobby is a big, beautiful space with five Mexican hipsters seated behind a large wood table with electrical and communication cables spilling out the back. We make our way to the top floor — the third floor. Here we find “A Place in Two Dimensions, A Selection from the Coleccion Jumex + Fred Sandback, Curated by Patrick Charpenel” printed on a large text panel that also discusses the duality of space and time:

“Thus, parallel realities or dimensions are possible for all those not subject to the limitation imposed by a single system. The principal of dimensional simultaneity establishes that two or more physical objects, realities or perceptions can coexist at the same time and in the same space. [ …]

A Place in Two Dimensions […] reformulates these concepts through two independent and autonomous exhibitions installed in a single space. This project features, on the one hand, representative works from the collection of Eugenio López Alonso (including sculptures, paintings, installations and videos created by over fifty different artists), and on the other, a solo show by American artist Fred Sandback (1943–2003). Thus, different works made with diverse languages and media are superimposed and connected to seven minimalist installations that are characteristic of Sandback’s practice. The simplicity and agility of Sandback’s projects contrast with the strong visual and physical presence of the pieces selected from Colección Jumex.”

My reaction to the text panel is passive and we enter the gallery to the sound of five woman in their thirties taking photos of each other very loudly in front of the Art. The women are literally shrieking with excitement as they take their photos. My first reaction is to go over and discuss with them a “museum-level of speaking”, but it seems pointless. They were probably in the area to do some shopping and therefore had a completely different mindset upon entering the museum.

The third-floor gallery displays work by Carl Andre, Ellsworth Kelley and Jeff Koons loosely associated through “space”.

We round the corner to find a piece by Artschwager (a favorite artist of mine). I suddenly feel lost. I try to think back to the text panel, but I’m unable to draw a connection between one gallery and the next, nor can I figure how they are tied to ”space”.

I love the work of Artschwager, but to include him in a group of artists related to space is a stretch. I stand back and try to make sense of what I am looking at: there are many different artists from different periods hung next to each other. I have a strange sense of confirmation when I see the work of Yoshiro Suda installed on the floor, in line with the fire pull-box, the thermostat and the gallery video camera which hang on the wall. This is the same piece that has been used in promotional materials: it is featured on posters above the lobby entry desk, in the museum’s shop window, and on the gallery level.

If the piece is of so much importance, why is it hung in view with the thermostat, fire pull-box and video camera?

If it is of such great importance, why aren’t they offering interpretation of the Artwork?

I watch as couple after couple approach the piece, unclear where to look, until they finally point to the floor. The piece “Spring of Wood” 2001 by Yoshiro Suda is a small, delicate sculpture that requires the attention of the viewer. It is unfair to both the viewer and the artist to place the piece in a corner, let alone such a cluttered one.

On the second floor there is a wonderful exhibition, “James Lee Byars: 1/2 an Autobiography”, organized and curated by Fundacion Jumex and MoMA PS1. The curation assistance of PS1 is evident and a welcome change of pace.

On the sublevel is a mishmash of Art pieces without interpretation. We go back upstairs and ask for a list of the pieces on display. We are told they only have one copy and that we can look at the list but not take it to the lower level.

I leave the museum scratching my head. It’s now 1:30 p.m.

The Artwork displayed in the museum (or in any museum) requires context, as each artist builds upon their predecessors. If the public is not made aware of this history, the museum experience turns into something akin to a shopping experience. Visitors will loudly take photos of themselves in front of the collected artists’ names and take only the superficial experience back home. The humbling lesson in history and progress is lost.

I take the museum experience very seriously, it is my religion. I relish the hushed atmosphere of MoMA and DIA.

In the USA we have the luxury of a long history of Modern Art experiences. Mexico City has several wonderful museums such as Museo de Arte Moderno, MUAC, Museum Tamayo, and each have significant interpretation and offer a critical approach to curation. This approach is lacking in Museo Jumex.

A museum experience must be different than shopping. It shouldn’t reflect the eclectic whims of those who purchased the art but should be evocative of the careful thought and planning that goes into creating an exhibition and the inevitable history that exists within each piece of Art. All artworks belongs to a continuum of Art history, therefore the Art requires available educators, it needs on-floor interpretation.

I believe Museo Jumex crossed a boundary. The best Art collections will communicate a greater sum than their parts; a message will emerge from the overall collection that is not apparent in the individual Art pieces. I was not made to connect with this greater sum as I walked through the Jumex collection. Just as some would be offended by mixing shopping and religion, I am offended by mixing a shopping experience with a museum experience.

Museums in developing countries carry a greater responsibility to educate the expanding middle-class public on the importance of museums as a touchstone to civil society and culture. Mexico has a rich and diverse history of Contemporary Art, none of which was made clear at the museum.

My photos of Museo Jumex on Pinterest

Museo Jumex Architect: David Chipperfield


Most Innovative Type of Museum Survey

4 Comments 24 July 2013

Most Innovative Type of Museum Survey

In general what type of museum is the most innovative?  

Exhibition Design, Exhibition Management, FAQ, Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

What are your museum questions?

17 Comments 02 July 2013

What are the top challenges facing your museum?

If you could ask someone for some advice, what would you ask?

On I try to address all issues facing museums and museum professionals, whether you are an established museum or just starting out. Over the next month, I’m here to help.   All you need to do is ask your question below in the “Post a comment” section.

Ask your questions, your challenges, whatever. Then, over the next couple weeks I’ll review all the comments and do my best to try to help as many of you as I can.

Look forward to hearing from you!


Exhibition Design, Future of Museums

“The Future of In-House Design in an Outsourcing World”

1 Comment 28 May 2013

Back from the 2013 American Alliance of Museums Conference, great conference, best in years!  As part of the conference I was invited to present on the panel “The Future of In-House Design in an Outsourcing World”.  Above is a copy of my presentation.  I was asked to be part of the panel because of my blog post “The Future of Museum Exhibition Design, Part I”.

Session Description:
“Come hear five perspectives on the future for in-house design—from people who have built large, award-winning exhibit departments to consultants who have built teams of consultants and in-house staff and helped museums deal with dysfunctional in-house exhibit departments.” Final Program, Page 52 Session Description

Jenny-Sayre Ramberg, Director of Planning and Design, Exhibits and Design, National Aquarium in Baltimore

Mark Walhimer, Museum Planner, Museum Planning, LLC
Donald hughes, Vice President of Exhibitions, Monterey Bay Aquarium
Paul Martin, Vice President, Science Learning, Science Museum of Minnesota
David Harvey, Senior Vice President for Exhibitions, American Museum of Natural History
Kathy McLean, Former Director of Operations, Please Touch Museum

As part of the session I created a survey “Exhibition Production In-house or Outsourced ? “, I will collect resposnses for a month then post results here on Museum Planner.  Thank you!

I will follow this post with photos from the conference and museum trends that I observed at the conference.

Exhibition Design, FAQ, Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

Frequently Asked Museum Questions

No Comments 07 April 2013

question_mark1Frequently Asked Museum Questions

Every day, I get a couple of emails asking questions about museums.  Thought I would put together a blog post of “Frequently Asked MuseumPlanner Questions”.

1. “How do you start a museum?”
Since 1992, I have been part of opening and expanding more than thirty-five museums.   Most of my work has been with science centers, children’s museums and natural history museums.
Link: “How to start a museum”

2. “How do you raise money for a museum?”
Link: “Museum Fundraising” blog post

3. “How do you get a museum job ?”
Link: “Getting a Museum Job”
Link: “Getting Started in Museums”

4. “How much do museum exhibitions cost?”
Link: “2011 Museum Exhibition Cost Survey”
Link: “How Much do Museum Exhibitions cost?”

5. “How do you create a museum exhibition?”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part I – Planning”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part II – Design Phases”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part III – Fabrication”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part IV – Installation”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part V – Maintenance”
Link: “Exhibition Design Part VI – Evaluation”
Link: “Creating a Traveling Exhibition”

6. “How do you Start a Science Center ?”
Link: “How to Start a Science Center”

7. “What do you do (Mark Walhimer) ?”
Link to What do you do?” 

8. “How do you increase museum attendance ?”
Link: “How to Increase Museum Attendance”

9.  “What is a museum?”
Link “What is a Museum?” 

10. “What is Museum Strategic Planning?”
Link: What is Museum Strategic Planning – Part I
Link: “What is Museum Strategic Planning – Part II Feasibility Studies”

Did I miss any Frequently Asked Questions?, if I did please add them in the comment section below, thanks! -Mark

Exhibition Design, Museum Planning

Museum Exhibition Design Photos on Pinterest

No Comments 25 February 2013

Museum Exhibition Design Photos on Pinterest

Museum Exhibition Design Photos
I have always taken photos and notes when I visit a museum, now I use Pinterest to document the visits.  You can visit my Pinterest Boards on Pinterest.  Below are my Pinterest boards by cateogory.  All photos copyright Mark Walhimer.

Art Museums

Ron Mueck” at Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso

Museo Rufino Tamayo


Museum of Modern Art

“Ernesto Neto” at Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso

Museo Modo

Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar

San Jose Airport

Museo Dolores Olmedo

Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

Newark Museum

Hong Kong Museum of Art 

M+ Mobile

Ghibli Museum

Museo de Arte Moderno

Richard Serra at Toronto Airport

Art Galleries

“Rafael Lozano-Hemmer” at OMR

Chelsea, NYC, July 2012

Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis 

Zona Maco 2012

Science Centers

Science Museum of Minnesota


“Sexualidad” at Universum

Hong Kong Science Museum

Hong Kong Space Museum 

Children’s Museums

Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum

Minnesota Children’s Museum

History Museums

Museo Nacional de Antropologia e Historia

Minnesota History Center

Hong Kong Museum of History

“Alcatraz: Life on the Rock”

“Alcatraz Landing”

Centro Cultural Espana

Museo Franz Mayer

Museo Culturas Populares

Lands End Lookout

Thomas Edison National Historic Park

Morris Museum


Exhibition Design, Exhibition Reviews

Best Museum Exhibitions of 2012

3 Comments 19 February 2013

In 2012 I visited a total of sixty-three museums, often visiting a city for work, then taking a day to visit the local museums.  My favorite exhibitions were in New York City, Mexico City, Minneapolis, Hong Kong and Washington, D.C..  When I am visiting a museum exhibition, I am looking for layers of information, starting from an exhibition statement.   I am a strong believer in Pre-Visit, Visit and Post-Visit, does the exhibition support an online pre-visit orientation ?, does the exhibition have an exhibition statement with supporting layers? Is there information for resources post-visit?  Does the entire exhibition hold together with one voice? Does it present the information in a constant manner?  Is the exhibition attractive, inclusive and welcoming?

The best exhibitions are the result of a curatorial vision. Kudos to the curators, exhibition developers and exhibition designers and fabricators of these exhibitions. Below are my selections for the “Best Exhibitions of 2012″

Best Exhibition of the 2012


Science Center: Universum, “Sexualidad” (Click on photo above for my exhibition photos)
I believe exhibitions have the ability to change people’s lives and Sexualidad is structured to communicate and encourage  conversation, with the goal of giving visitors the tools to make personal decisions.   Most of all, I was impressed by the courage of Universum to present such a difficult topic as sexuality in as “flat” and helpful a manner.     The exhibition includes difficult topics such as incest, abuse by clergy, sexual attraction, contraception and reproduction.  The information was factual, flat and helpful.  I visited the exhibition twice and each time I was impressed by teenagers and couples paying attention and learning. The exhibition includes varying levels of privacy, from the personal viewers for topics such as incest to small theater areas for biology topics.  The exhibition had a clean and minimal aesthetic, incorporating glass, white frosted acrylic and many back light panels with interaction when appropriate.  Kudos to Universum!

History Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


(Click on photo for link to “Museum Exhibitions Change Lives”)

Towards the end of my tour of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I stood at the back of the exhibition theater and cried, I know of no better response to an exhibition.  I was touched on an emotional, intellectual and spiritual level.  See my blog post, “Exhibition Change Lives”

Children’s Museum – Minnesota Children’s Museum

Minnesota Children's Museum

(Click on photo above for my exhibition photos)

I have not been to the Children’s Museum of Minnesota since it opened in 1995 and wasn’t sure what to expect.  After touring the galleries, I asked to speak with the Director of Exhibition, only to congratulate them on the continued excellence.  The galleries are fun, lively, but never childlike.  Children’s museums have an opportunity to address children as developing people, with interests and desires of their own.  When given the opportunity they can make their own decisions and explorations with the guidance of adults.  The Children’s Museum of Minnesota is such a place, being welcoming, fun, exciting while never talking down to children. Instead it gives children an opportunity to explore and reach.  The building architecture is incorporated into the experience, offering graphics for both adults and children.  My only criticism is the lack of a museum collection as an introduction to a museum experience.

Art Museum - Museo Rufino Tamayo

(Click on photo above for my exhibition photos)

The exhibitions coincided with the building renovation and the museum re-opening.  I loved the entry Art piece of the exhibition “Primer Acto” by Douglas Gordon “Off Screen” 1998, placing the visitor at center stage.  “Primer Acto” played with the boundaries between artist, museum and visitor.   “Tomorrow was already here” is an artist’s look at previous visions of the future. The museum reopening included  excellent programming to accompany each exhibition.  There are programming areas in each exhibition areas which include selections of books and videos to support the exhibitions.

Corporate Installation - Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis

Le Merridien
(Click on photo above for my exhibition photos)
You will notice that two of the exhibitions are from Mexico City and two from Minnesota, I do not find this a coincidence.  The best exhibitions are the result of a community and the art installations at the Le Meridien Chambers Minneapolis Hotel are brilliant.  When I first checked into the hotel, I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place, thinking I must be in the lobby of the restaurant and seeing the restaurant’s art collection.  I asked and was told “yes, the art is part of the hotel” and was given an art guide.  When I  arrived at my room, I found the same level of Art installed in my room.  Hotel guests can find more information about the art in their room (including prices) and a guide to the Art in the public areas.

Notable Exhibitions of 2012 (Links to each):
Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso - Ernesto Neto
OMR - Rafael Lozano-Hemmer
Centro Cultual Espana- I loved the basement exhibition, seeing the layers of history of the development of DF
Science Museum of Minnesota

I do not believe in crowd sourcing of exhibitions and don’t see how any of the exhibition above could have been created through the methods of crowd sourcing.

In the interest of full disclosure, none of the museums above are clients.

Exhibition Design, Museum Planning

Museums are communication

2 Comments 09 December 2012

Museums are communication.

As I am writing this blog post,  I am watching a blinking LED.  I have always been interested in electronics, computer programming and Art.  As a kid I took computer programming then on a punch card, took Art classes and worked in the basement on electronic projects.  In the past I have toyed with Basic Stamps, now I am starting to learn about Arduino and learning Arduino code.  All just for fun.

As I stare into the blinking LED I am empowered and encouraged, I want to learn more, I want to “do”.  This is the kernel at the center of all museums, the sense of wonder and the pursuit of knowledge.  I learned how to program the Arduino and make the LED turn on and off, I now own that knowledge it is mine forever.   As I watch the blinking LED, here sits an important lesson, the ownership of knowledge and the transfer from provider to user.  It doesn’t matter the topic or discipline, Art, Science or History, it is the same communicating with the public and ownership of knowledge.  I talk about constructivist learning and that blinking LED is a great reminder.   Theoretically I understood how to make the LED blink, but not until I deconstructed how I thought it worked and relearned how to make it work did I own the knowledge.  It is mine and can’t be taken away.  That transfer is a delicate dance between content provider and receiver of information.  In this case I learned in my own way, trying different approaches, reading, making changes.

Museums are an informal form of communication and the relationship between museum and visitor is tantamount, in the relationship, Museum to visitor, Museum (as Peer) to visitor, visitor to visitor, museum to other museums, creating a matrix of communicators.

Work benches are gone.  Most kids don’t grow up with a work bench in the basement any longer, museums are the new “workbench”, luckily a communal workbench for sharing ideas and communicating.

None of the rest really matters, technique for communication, place of communication, the voice does matter, the rest is just icing.

Thanks for listening, now I need to get back to the Arduino and see if I can make a button turn the LED on and off.

Exhibition Design, Museum Planning, Science Center

Science Center Exhibition Design – Part I

4 Comments 02 December 2012

Science Center Exhibition Design – Part I

I have been enjoying writing in series.  So far, I have worked on Museum Exhibition Design, Museum Strategic Planning and Museum Trends (which has become it’s own website and now I would like to start a series about Science Center Exhibition Design.  In part, I was inspired by an article by By Edward Rothstein “The Thrill of Science, Tamed by Agendas” in the New York Times.  An excerpt from the article:

“A science museum is a kind of experiment. It demands the most elaborate equipment: Imax theaters, NASA space vehicles, collections of living creatures, digital planetarium projectors, fossilized bones. Into this mix are thrust tens of thousands of living human beings: children on holiday, weary or eager parents, devoted teachers, passionate aficionados and casual passers-by. And the experimenters watch, test, change, hoping….”

It is exactly this active visitor participation that got me first so excited about science centers in 1992 (when I started work at Liberty Science Center).  In the article Mr. Rothstein discusses several recent (the article was written in 2010) incarnations of new science centers.  What strikes me about the article and the examples is the sense of “experimentation” in Science Centers, each example is different in character and approach.  It is this sense of “experimentation” that is leading the museum field.   The blog series will explore how I see science centers leading the museum field.

Future posts in the “Science Center Exhibition Design” series will include; “A Definition of the Spectrum of Science Centers”, “A History of Science Centers”,”How Science Center Exhibition Design is Different”, “The Future of Science Centers” and the “The Future of Science Center Exhibition Design and Fabrication”.

Links to my previous exhibition design posts:
Part I, Museum Exhibition Design – Planning
Part II, Museum Exhibition Design – Design Phases
Part III Museum Exhibition Design – Fabrication
Part IV Museum Exhibition Design – Installation
Part V Museum Exhibition Design – Exhibition Maintenance
Traveling Exhibition Design
Science Center Exhibition Design

Link to the Largest Science Centers:
World’s Most Visited Science Centers

A listing of some of my favorite Science Centers (needs updating)

* Image by Museum Planning, LLC rendering of Trans Studio Science Center

Exhibition Design, Future of Museums, Museum Planning, Starting A New Museum

“Starting a Museum”, the book

1 Comment 07 October 2012

I have started work on a book tentatively called “Starting a Museum”.   More than “How to Start a Museum”, the book will explore the question “How could a museum be started?”.  I will need lots of help and hope that I can call on the readers of this blog as active participants in the creation of the book.  My big questions for the book, “what will the museum of 2050 be like?”, “What is the business of museums?” and “what are new business models for museums”.  Most people who start a museum have never started a museum before, the book will serve as a resource for the fundamentals of museums as well as future thinking about museums.  I will be looking to add specific editors and contributors in the areas of Fund Raising, Grant Writing, Art Handling, Registration, Board Management, Conservation and Finances and hoping that each book editor can than serve a similar role in an online forum.

My thought is to create an outline on Google Docs from previous blog posts, then work with a content editor (job description link) to refine the objectives of the book.  Once the first draft is in reviewable form invite people to comment on the book.  Then release as an ebook.  Simultaneously I would like to create an online forum for each of the areas of the book.  The forum be a place for discussion and more detailed analysis of the topics covered in the book.  Once the book has been thoroughly commented on and reviewed as an ebook, publish the book as a softcover.

If you are interested in being the content editor or an editor of a specific area (Fund Raising, Grant Writing, Art Handling, Registration, Board Management, Conservation and Finances) please contact me

This posts is one of many for the book, future posts:

Spectrum of Museums

Book Introduction

How to Start a Museum

Starting a Museum


Web 3.0 / Museum 4.0


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