Karen Budgor

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Restricted Access (SIA Only)

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Contemporary Art

First Advisor

Eric Wolf

Second Advisor

Morgan Falconer


The objective of this thesis is to examine what art museums are acquiring today for their permanent collection, and why. The canon of art today has shifted in aesthetics to one that embodies contemporaneity as its top priority, and this is especially evident from 2016-present. This study finds that the reason for variances rely heavily on the ideological intent embodied in the mission statement of the institution. Public museums are a unique type of an institution because of their responsibility to provide a space where the community can view art and learn
something about themselves and others, but the word ‘community’ is problematized because it implies inclusiveness of the entire community across culture and gender lines. Past displays until recently only spoke to part of the community, and excluded a large swath of the population. This study finds that the more a museum embodies an ethos of genuine inclusiveness, the larger reach it will have into the community it serves. The research correlates how contemporary
discourses have impacted curatorial thought, and informed decisions which ultimately contemporize the canon of artwork on display today. The aesthetics embodied in new acquisitions are a lens on the museum’s philosophies and its goal to meet the public needs. As such they serve as evidence that the curatorial staff is listening to the public and at the same time sends a signal to the community that they are being ‘heard’. On an on-going basis, museums need to re-assess their collection and mission, and expand where necessary to be in alignment with contemporary society. They must do this frequently and provide programming for
sustainability for those objectives or risk becoming irrelevant. The resources for this thesis include journals, newspapers, videos and other literature listed in
the bibliography, as well as live interviews via zoom with curators, directors of art museums, art liaisons, art historians, gallerists, and art critics provided in the appendix.

Epistemology and key words considered: The epistemology of such words as
‘contemporary’, ‘global’, ‘diaspora’, ‘de-colonization’, ‘socially engaged’, ‘underrepresented voices’, ‘culture’, ‘inform’, ‘good eye’, ‘inclusiveness’, ‘receptiveness’ are italicized because they have expanded meanings, and can be considered key words in the theoretical observations of truth telling, contemporary art and its’ role with the museum acquisitions.