In light of the upcoming cultural exchange exhibition with China's Palace Museum, should the Milwaukee Art Museum protest the continued detention of artist Ai Weiwei, who hasn't been seen since April 3, 2011?
A valid question which undoubtedly brings up the current futility of the museum institution vis-a-vis politics. Museums now tend to be so dyslexic about their role in society, usually because of their sad desperation for money. Should the Milwaukee Art Museum protest? They don't necessarily have to; they can simply "contextualize" the situation to make it ethically work out for them. Isn't this what all museums and exhibits ultimately do, if need be?
A perfect example would be Vienna's Museum of Applied Arts (MAK) 2010 exhibition with a sprawling collection of works from North Korea's national museum.
If MAK didn't protest the detention of millions of people in a country much worse off than China (and in fact rendered any protest as "not understanding the art"), why does any museum need to protest the humanitarian violations of one person -- especially if they're going to make some much needed dough this summer, right?
Maybe they will dedicate a little something to Ai Weiwei, like an installation or performance or something. Yep...that would really do something.