April 23, 1999
Introduction: Cult and exhibition values.
The differing needs of user groups can alter the presentation needs of an object, and the goals of these groups can provide the basis for cohesive action. Several organizations have formed to promote the standards in which its members believe, traditionalists, modernists, and other activist communities. Each group has a different priority for the treatment of their interests.
Museums are often faced with the need to raise funds and support their works. Archives and collections are expensive to maintain and update. Public institutions have great difficulty purchasing new works of art in an appreciating market with a reduced budget. In order to fund the collections, exhibitions are employed to attract public attention and funding. Those items that will attract public interest can translate into potential earnings for the museum. A balance needs to be struck between the interest to provide access to the traditional offerings and access to popular recent offerings.
There are two models widely used for museums, expressed in terms of institutions with different foci. The first is a science museum, in which the purpose of collection is to assemble a representative collection. Several comparative examples are not necessary for the science museum is interested in only one.
Second is an art museum, which may collect artifacts of the same general type. Thus, two clocks, two statues, or two paintings are collected. The art museum may also choose to be thematic, grouping related materials in one place.
As noted in the Work of Art and the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, classical art relies upon tradition and the aura it attains through this passage of time. An alteration of these principles separates art from the domain of tradition. New approaches try to resist the demands of tradition, and may reflect the condition of contemporary humanity instead.
Human perception changes and later groups of critics have interpreted art by their standards. The former standards may represent the views of past masters, but the critics are not bound by these views. These views often contribute to the cult value of the art, and critical views give their input to the exhibition value. They can be one and the same, but allow for a divergence to develop. For optimizationís sake, the closer these values are to one another, the clearer the message given to an exhibitor. An exhibitor wishing to capitalize on popular tastes needs to retain fewer works of art, if they are appropriate choices. Large museums contend with the problems inherent in balancing the art collection to satisfy lovers of both cultural and exhibition value. Representative items of cultural value are now chosen for display from the archived collection, and augmented with pieces chosen primarily for their display values.
The art patron can effect the substance of art that is constructed in the future, since his support and funds will finance collections that meet his needs. There are many concerns that can motivate a patron:
Further examples are depicted by the distinctions between natural, art, and other museums. The differing needs that are represented by each can provide guidance with regard to user group needs. The needs can then be grouped as they are in these institutions, and can utilize the information needs of the wine market.
Cult and exhibition values are important to all user groups to different degrees. The mixture of tangible (cash) and intangible values (aura) produces a collection that appeals to the patrons of a museum. Recent examples have suggested that museums often include exhibition space as a means of supporting members of the collection that have unpopular cult value. In terms of an industry, this is often expressed as subsidization.
Museums have both an economic interest and an educational one in the members of collections. Artifacts that contribute to these interests can be desirable to maintain custody of. Other groups, such as the American Indian Movement, have a cultural or religious interest in the same artifacts. Conflict over the rightful ownership of the artifacts is fought frequently in the law courts of the United States. Neither contestant for the artifact is willing to grant possession to the other. They likewise reject measures that remove the artifacts from contest, such as giving a third party custody of the items. This conflict does not require that the artifacts be given to only one group; shared access is a reasonable compromise solution. In this way, the desires of both of the contestants can be fulfilled.
The qualities that describe a museum artifact can be applied to fine wine collection, and are often described on the wine label. Commerce enters the equation at this point, when cash chooses the items, which are held in the collection. Items that are commonly requested by patrons may represent more of institutionís or individualís resources due to the influence of demand. The question of the comparative values of the cult and exhibition is translated to whether the traditional classification structure of the French should be given priority to a structure based upon the tastes of the public.
Reasoning similar to that used in museum collection development is used in the wine industry as well. The traditional classification system of France, later adopted by the European Union, is based upon decisions made in 1855. This system is now called the Appellations de Origines Controlles (AOC). Emperor Napoleon III required that this ranking be done in preparation for his Crystal Jubilee. Only the wines submitted were included in the classification. This ranking remained unchanged until 1976 when the Mouton-Rothschild was promoted from the second rank to one of the most elite in France. The focus of this system has always been on the history and pedigree of the soil that produces the wine. These distinctions are embraced as part of national culture, and resonate with French, Old World history.
Wine traditionalists advocate that the description and creation of wine should take place according to the formulae established in earlier times. Only those wines that kept the high standards that the AOC espoused would be considered for inclusion among fine wine. This is similar to the declaration that "Only paintings done in the Georgian period are real paintings." If this last statement is universally true, then paintings done at other dates or those that were made using different materials or styles do not qualify as "paintings". This traditionalist perspective is deeply concerned with the cult value of its subject.
Wine modernists largely do not belong to the European Union, and assume that the ultimate purpose of the grapevine is to make palatable wine. Methods other than those of the traditionalists are tolerated, as the focus has shifted to the wine itself - not the winery of origin. Grapes that are considered unsuitable in traditional wisdom are mixed and bred by modern vintners to appeal to the modern palate. The vintners do not consider the traditional methods of vinting superior to their own.
In the wine industry, this is a serious conflict. France uses its name recognition and historical pull, and newer producers like the United States wield the economic appeal of consumer centered wine as a club in the contest for marketshare. Both perspectives appeal to the consumer, depending upon the needs and desires of these groups. The ideals and perspectives of different groups can influence the media through which exhibits are seen. These perspectives can correspond with the needs and expectations of these groups. The 1855 classifications are still honored in the European Community, but sites in the New World such as the US and Canada, as well as Australia prefer to rely upon winemaking strategies that attempt to suit a consumerís palate.
In the wine industry, the New World sees wine information as a science museum sees a collection. Identification can be made by wineís lowest common denominator, the grape varietal. This fact is recorded and governs choices often made with regard to wine classification in the New World.
The European Union prefers to treat wine as natural product, and defies easy classification. The internal structure of the long-standing AOC system is so detailed that the wine can be identified with the plot of ground from which the grapevine sprang. Other areas of the world prefer to classify the wine by varietal types, and downplay the effect of "terroir" on wineries. Each label of wine stands on its own, as an example of its varietal. The quality of the wine and not the quality of the ground are the basis for emphasis.
Wine experts have several opinions about the comparative values of AOC and US wines. On the right the Francophiles hail AOC wine as beverages deserving of respect and protection, "surpassing other wines as the stars surpass gems in the earth". These wines are objects díart, and unsurpassed examples of authenticity. In the center are those who say that both perspectives have excellent wines, and at the right are the neo-vintners. These producers feel that US wines do not need to be graded on a French standard, since the standard is inadequate. Wines can be graded on bases that do not agree with the AOCís interest in traditional "terroir". For the neovinters, the taste of the wine is more important than the traditional use of the grape varietals.
Funding through the sale of representations:
It is for this reason that groups of artifacts that find public favor can be used as cash cows. Prints, literature, exhibition receipts and facsimiles are offered to the public to take the place of the original artifact in their minds. Digital representations of artifacts may encourage the access of patrons, and result in tangible rewards for the museum.
The impact of representations and duplications on the cult value and exhibition value balance has been significant. This argument has been extended into the physical and digital arenas, and includes original artifacts as well as electronic representations of other objects. The physical state of the artifact can determine the number of access points that are available to patrons. If the artifact is original, a patron is obliged to share space with this object or forgo the experience. Several qualities that are associated with the artifact can only be experienced in the flesh; the texture, smell, and characteristic associations such as history and cult value. Patron taste is unpredictable, and changes over the course of time. Artifacts do not change after they are constructed; they may only get older.
Electronic representations of artifacts have several characteristics that commend them to the purchase of a casual patron: First, they are often more accessible than the original. The number of patrons that can access a physical artifact are limited, whereas the access to a digital representation is much more available. Second, these representations are serious efforts of duplication and can convey part of the message of the original. If the representation is not of high quality, it does not appeal to consumers. Third, it is dispensable. This copy can be replaced with another and the original is not damaged. The supply is meant to equal the demand, and so the prices at which these representations are sold are far lower than the originalís value. Fourth, electronic representations are convenient to the patron. Fewer demands are placed upon the patron in terms of availability with digital representation than with an original. The chief disadvantages to digital representations replacing traditional artifacts include the loss of cult value and the limitation of characteristics that may be copied.
A loss of cult value often occurs when the representation is distanced from the "original" artifact. Through the process of reproduction, the copy begins to lose the aura of an authentic artifact. In time, the representation may develop a cult value of its own, but the distance imposed by the copying process separates it from the founding artifact.
A copy of an authentic piece tends to lose ties with the characteristics associated with the original. A written summary of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" does not convey the same experience as participating in a large audience of the motion picture. Sense impressions are much the same, as the smell or texture may be quite different from the original item.
Further, the sense of "ownership" of a copy is not the same as the ownership of an original item. Many collectors feel that original items have special values, because they are unique, and cannot be "replaced."
The wine industry faces many of the same difficulties as those of publicly supported museums. Resource growth can occur through the marketing of commonly favored commodities. For museums, copies and reproductions finance the collection of preferred objects. Wines, on the other hand, can be supported through the sale of plonk (low quality table wines) and wine flavored beverages. Wine belonging to higher grades is made more carefully, and demands more resources and time from the grower. Comments made by individuals that prefer the French system of wine making suggest that the US does not produce proper wine at all, and that French wine is an ideal representative of the product. In France, the economic and cultural value of a bottle of wine is closely associated with its label. The profits derived from the sale of table wine give the French government the ability to subsidize the fine wine production market in France. Rather than change the composition of wine to that of a better selling wine, this country prefers to lessen the financial burden that hangs on the traditional wine producers. The maintenance of the cult value of the traditional wines to the French country is more important than monetary implications.
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