chapter  4
30 Pages

High culture on urban heights

The mouseion ideal as city crown
ByJ. Pedro Lorente

A museum is, primarily, a concept, not an edifice housing a collection within its walls; this is a truism often repeated by museologists, though the common use of language tends to identify museums with buildings sheltering cultural treasures inside. The concept of an open air museum constitutes an appealing aspiration whose origins go well back in time. A great fondness for picturesque gardens adorned with classical kiosks, memories of medieval remains, Chinese pavilions or quaint cottages proliferated throughout Europe in the eighteenth century. The lack of appropriate conservation, as well as interpretative and educational policies, reveals that these collections of contemporary art displayed in public grounds merely act as urban ornament, not quite deserving the pompous designation of museums. When discussing open air collections of modern/contemporary art, it has been a long-standing practice to refer almost exclusively to sculptures – mostly made of stone or bronze or other weatherproof materials.