SANTA FE — It feels as though the elephant in the room at every board meeting for every major art institution in the US is the question of relevance. There is a sense, behind closed doors, that museums are struggling to reconnect with their audience. One difficulty, perhaps, is that the qualifying credentials to work at a museum create a kind of insularity and art-world myopia, disconnected with the attention span and interests of the average American. Another is simply that their governing boards tend to include no artists, and often trend in the direction of people who can spare tens of thousands of dollars for a seat at the table.
I love museums, and I also see the ways in which they are out of touch, catering to values that are no longer central to the contemporary experience. I have no desire to argue the inherent value of the practices of long-looking, open-ended critical thinking, or art history — only that traditional art institutions have an uncanny knack for stripping all the fun out of art experiences. So imagine my delight when, with very little preparation or context, I paid a visit to one of the sites developed by the art collective Meow Wolf, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.