The Future of the Blockbuster : A Need for Change?

Thanks to everyone who participated in and attended this panel discussion on 22 October. Watch the recording of this event.

Crises lead to reassessment. ‘Blockbuster’ exhibitions have been a staple of art museums and galleries for decades. They have been enormously successful in terms of raising profile, fostering research, reaching larger audiences and generating income. The global pandemic has put a hold on these exhibitions and institutions are reassessing the continued viability of the blockbuster model in a post-lockdown world.

As the first of a series of discussions about issues facing curators and art museums and galleries, the Museums and Galleries Committee of the Association for Art History is pleased to announce an online discussion about the future of the blockbuster.

In this forum, panellists will consider whether, when the pandemic ebbs, they expect and would welcome a return of these large-scale exhibitions. Or whether they think that the current Covid-related limitations – and the demands for greater focus on social justice and concern for the environment – require a reconsideration of institutional purpose, financial models, and audience needs. Is an imaginative focus on permanent collections and local audiences the path ahead for some institutions and, if so, will audiences and critics shift their expectations accordingly? How best are the interests of knowledge generation served? Is there an opportunity for a greater sharing of resources and expertise across the sector? Will a digital offering need to be re-evaluated as more than a secondary alternative, particularly if audiences remain reluctant to travel?

Museums’ responses to these questions are fast-evolving and reflect their individual context and circumstances. To help shed light on the future of the blockbuster, the panel includes academics and museum and gallery professionals, working in regional and national institutions in the UK and abroad. The panellists are:

  • Paula Birnbaum, Professor and Academic Director, Museum Studies, University of San Francisco
  • Axel Ruger, Secretary and Chief Executive, Royal Academy, London
  • Julián Zugazagoitia, Director, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City
  • Andrea Nixon, Senior Associate, Counterculture and former Executive Director, Tate Liverpool
  • Dan Hicks, Curator, Pitt Rivers Museum and Professor of Contemporary Archaeology, University of Oxford

Each will make a short presentation to be followed by discussion involving as respondents:

  • Achim Borchardt-Hume, Director of Exhibitions and Programmes, Tate Modern
  • Nadine Loach, Co-Chair, Sustainable Exhibitions for Museums;Registrar, Science Museum Group

Gregory Perry, CEO, Association for Art History, will chair and moderate this discussion.

Audience members will have a chance to ask questions via the Zoom chatbox function during the event and can also send questions ahead of time to This event will take place live and be recorded and made available afterwards.

This FREE online event is open to all, but pre-booking is necessary.
Book your free e-ticket via Eventbrite







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