In 2018 we were invited by curator Mike Pepi to contribute to SFMOMA’s online platform “Open Space.” Contributions to the issue “Heavy Machinery” remain archived on SFMOMA’s website https://openspace.sfmoma.org/issue/heavy-machinery/ – all except for ours. Just before the release of the issue, the Open Space editor declined our submission, claiming that “we don't have the bandwidth to do this!” We were paid despite the cancellation of sfmoma.domains, and we can only speculate on the motives. The project was pointedly self-reflexive; we were LARPing as museum consultants contracted to contribute a report on the future of the museum. The following is an excerpt:
Of the 15,000 or so available top-level domains we recommend an initial phase of expansion into nine: .consulting, .careers, .ventures, .community, .technology, .investments, .solutions, .estates, and .space. Each domain will be outlined through a brief summary that aims to provide our client with strategic planning to thrive in the marketplaces of the future. These summaries are coupled with graphs that forgo standard data analysis methodologies for a sculpting of models that are agreeably mystifying and consistent with the intuitive approach of an artist.
The premise of “domains” was to outline future trajectories for a major museum situated in the heart of Silicon Valley. The sfmoma.domains project was seeded by the speculation that a legacy fine art museum was unsustainable – as an episteme and financial model – in a city overcome by technocultures. Our pitch was to package museum consulting as distinct internet domains that could be maintained with minimal oversight and little cost over the long term, regardless of disruptions and restructuring that might impact the host institution.
Do Not Research presents an opportunity to resurrect sfmoma.domains. It was a website that linked to nine distinct domains that live on as screen captures of reports and supporting data visualizations. For the sake of brevity, we will reproduce four domains. In the intervening four years a venerable San Francisco fine art institute graduated its last class and closed, two blue-chip art galleries left the city, and SFMOMA cut programs, including the Open Space platform.
—João Enxuto and Erica Love, October 2022
The museum is a part of history, a product of cultural growth. It is condemned to perish if it loses the capacity for growth and change. San Francisco is a fountainhead for technological innovation. The city’s platform monopolies have willingly stepped into the intersection of art and technology to enable cultural experimentation with machine learning, virtual reality, and other creative tools. However, it will become increasingly unprofitable for the museum to chase innovation cycles and boom-and-bust without risking the appropriation of the museological ecosystem by Silicon Valley values altogether.
The preeminent Bay-area art museum must forge its own fresh direction for contemporary art practices. Towards these ends, we recommend the creation of the first museum-anchored culture incubator in San Francisco—SFX. This museum satellite operation will assimilate the functions of a creative tech incubator to shield the primary institution from the disruptive demands of the new economy.
SFMOMA will lease its illustrious brand identity to a major technology company for the right to support SFX. This incubator will foster a creative ecosystem focused on boundary-pushing professionals to harness the power of technology and pedagogy to scale empathy. Support will be offered in the form of consulting, links to strategic partners, market research, high-speed Internet access, technology commercialization assistance, business etiquette, regulatory compliance and management team identification. Please note, SFX will not provide studio space or exhibition opportunities.
The largest share of museum operating revenue (36.5%) comes from donors in the private sector. This is defined as individuals, charities and philanthropic foundations, as well as corporate sponsors. Earned income (27.6%) comes from admission fees, retail sales or rentals. Thus the public and organizations made up of individuals account for about 64% of a museum’s operating budget.
We want to consider a longer term, vital horizon for museum investments: the audience of the future. A recent trend of scaling-back primary school arts education will result in endangering two of the four sources of museum revenue, private donations and earned revenue. Children, therefore, are the number one resource when projecting the future financial health of a museum. Let us reconsider the CORE standards in arts education from the Visual and Performing Arts Framework for California Public Schools as an investment in our museums: https://www.cde.ca.gov/be/st/ss/vapacontentstds.asp. To augment a rich and well-rounded arts education, we recommend new areas of pedagogical emphasis: aesthetics, research-based, post-colonialism, empathy, financialization, intersectionality, critique, heteronomy, artrepeneurialism, value, political economy, and overdetermination.
Just as artists and visitors are complex, fascinating humans, so is the museum staff. To address the dynamism of personalized content production and to recalibrate the collection for experiences, we recommend the creation of (at least) six new administrative positions: Visual Experience Manager, Digital Interpretative Specialist, Content Strategist, Director of Digital Engagement, Deputy Director for Digital Initiatives, and Chief Experience Officer. It should be duly noted that administrative freedom and the freedom to administrate are not the same thing.
In tandem with new staff appointments, we recommend a supplement to the SFMOMA departmental organizational chart that includes personalized team pages. This is where visitors can go for a peek behind the institutional curtain; to see who is making the magic happen in the organization, what makes them qualified, and most importantly, what makes them different. Don't lock the team away in an ivory tower. Throw away the gatekeeping and open lines of communication so that users can indulge their curiosity. Use real team profile photos. No professional headshots.
Art collectors are passionate about acquiring art. Most are inclined to focus on accumulation, while the work of planning the perpetuity of an estate is often left unfinished. To encourage the longevity of a collector’s vision we first recommend the establishment of a private museum, as a means of unburbing tax liability. After death, the succession of a private museum in its entirety is absorbed as a satellite subsidiary of SFMOMA. Each new museum becomes an annex of SFMOMA’s expanding public institutional space. With the massive accumulated generational wealth of American baby boomers ready to be unlocked, SFMOMA is well positioned to become an attractor for the prestige branding of private estate collections.