… before the bubble burst on new culture palaces. According to the NYTimes, arts organizations, just like everyone else in real estate and construction, got giddy with dreams of fame and fortune (a.k.a., the “Bilbao Effect,” the Guggenheim-like launch into stardom thanks to a major chunk of architecture).
Now the economic downturn has reined in a lot of these big dreams and has also led to questions about whether ambitious building projects from Buffalo to Berkeley ever made sense to begin with. Some are arguing that arts administrators and their patrons succumbed to an irrational exuberance that rivaled the stock market’s in the boom years.
Organizations were “blinded by the excitement of what it would be like to have this great new facility,” said D. Carroll Joynes, a senior fellow at the University of Chicago’s Cultural Policy Center.
The recession, he said he believed, is not solely to blame for a recent wave of projects that have been delayed (like additions to the St. Louis Art Museum, the Cincinnati Art Museum and the Columbus Museum of Art); scaled back (like the new building of the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, N.Y.); put into question (the new Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center and the renovation of the New York Public Library’s main Fifth Avenue branch); or abandoned altogether (the expansion of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo).
In Mr. Joynes’s view, “The recession is exposing the weakness of a lot of institutions that were seriously overstretched” before it began.
“It’s exposing poor management and poor planning,” said Mr. Joynes, who is collaborating on a study of 50 cultural building projects completed from 1994 to 2008 and their planning processes. These were situations, he added, in which “nobody actually asked: ‘Is there a need here? If they build it, will they come?’ ”