An extended version of the interview with Malcolm Rogers: curator, fundraiser, rabble-rouser, and director of the Museum of Fine Arts.
Even when I was at my most controversial, people who didn’t want to be involved in the controversy would come up to me and say, “Malcolm, the museum feels different since you’ve been there.” That’s their way of saying, “You’re doing a good job” without getting into the controversy. Before the controversy, people said thank you for opening the front doors.
You don’t really mind controversy, do you?
We need a little bit of controversy. As Oscar Wilde said, the only thing that’s worse than being talked about is not being talked about.
Given that, what did you make of the ICA and the Shepard Fairy exhibit, when he got arrested? You must have appreciated the spectacle of all that?
The public have all sorts of choices about how to spend their leisure time, and you have to keep saying that this is a lively, welcoming place, without dumbing down, without being vulgar. But you have to change with the times. I remember years ago when we put on the Herb Ritts exhibit, and I suppose I did intend to cause a little bit of a fuss, one person said to me, “It’s fine that you’ve got all these people here, but they’re not really museum people.” Another thing people will say is, “You know, young people are the audiences of the future.” What? That just means they’re the middle-aged people of the future. This is not a place for middle-aged people, necessarily. And if you come here on the weekend that’s very obviously the case. But people have funny notions about museums. Too many preconceptions.
INTERVIEW BY ANDREW PUTZ