To celebrate its 25th anniversary, The Art Newspaper is conducting a series of investigations called What is Art For? The first two took place in London, at the British Museum, and in St Petersburg, at the State Hermitage Museum, with the museums’ respective directors adjudicating. On 12 May (6.30pm), it is the turn of New York, with Glenn Lowry doing the summing-up at the Museum of Modern Art. The cross-questioner is Kate Levin, Bloomberg Associates’ principal, cultural assets management, and former commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (2002-13).
The witnesses for art will be:
• James Davis of the Google Cultural Institute, which aims to bring culture to people through technology. Before that, he was a curator at the Tate, London.
• J. Tomilson (“Tom”) Hill III, the president and chief executive of Blackstone Alternative Asset Management, the chairman of the Lincoln Center Theater and a member of the board of directors of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a collector of Renaissance and Baroque bronzes and of contemporary art.
• Eric Kandel, a neuro-psychiatrist who was awarded a Nobel Prize (shared with Arvid Carlsson and Paul Greengard) in 2000 for his research into the physiological basis of memory storage in neurons. Kandel is a professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics at Columbia University, New York, where he was also the founding director of the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior (now the Department of Neuroscience). His book Reductionism in Art and Brain Sciences: Bridging the Two Cultures, on the processes of the brain and Abstract Expressionism, is about to come out.
• Lina Lazaar, who is Tunisian but was raised in Saudi Arabia and Switzerland. She founded Jeddah Art Week (2013 and 2014), during which she invited Filipino workers to show their photographs and mingle with the princes. In response to the first Islamist massacre in Tunis last year, she mounted a big and daring show on the ancient site of Carthage entitled All the World’s a Mosque, with conceptual works by Arab artists addressing the perversion of Islam by Isil and other forces.
The US event is supported by Volkswagen. The fourth event will be held in the Vatican later this year.