We’re always excited when our public programs receive national recognition, but we’re especially thrilled to to be leading a panel at South by Southwest this year. Museum Music: Art Galleries as Performance Spaceplaces Blanton programs on a global stage—even if that stage happens to be just on the other side of downtown Austin. Learn more in this blog post by Adam Bennett, Blanton Manager of Public Programs.

Graham Reynolds performing at SoundSpace

Graham Reynolds performing at SoundSpace
Photo by Vladimer Meija

Last fall the organizers of SXSW Music invited me to speak about our award-winning music series, SoundSpace. If you’ve never been to SoundSpace, it’s an afternoon of simultaneous performances of contemporary, classical, jazz, rock, pop, and performance art, all taking place inside the Blanton’s galleries. The performances are thematically linked to connect to each other and to make connections between the music and the sculptures, paintings, drawings, and videos on view in the galleries.

Contemporary art and contemporary music are definitely having a moment right now, and our panel at SXSW will explore why collaborations between art galleries/museums and musicians are poised to become even more prominent in the future. Events like Kraftwerk’s eight sold-out performances at Tate Modern, Jay Z’s performance with artist Marina Abramovi? at Pace Gallery, or The National playing one song 105 times in a row for 6 hours at MoMA PS1—these were among the most talked-about performances of 2013.

And of course the Blanton’s own SoundSpace series has become what the Austin American-Statesman called “the most successful new music event in the city.” Even in a city as saturated with performance venues and festivals as Austin, people are incredibly excited about hearing innovative new music in an art museum.

My co-panelists at SXSW will be Steve Parker, the musical director of SoundSpace, and Veronica Roberts, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Blanton. Steve, Veronica, and I will be talking about the history of music and performance in art galleries and how SoundSpace has extended that tradition in exciting new ways.

We’ll also talk about how musical artists can think creatively about the locations where they perform. Art museums are interesting spaces for performance because they offer a visual experience that other venues don’t. There are a lot of venues in Austin where you can get a beer or barbecue while you watch the band, but nowhere else where you’re going to find a saxophonist in front of a 17-foot painting by Anselm Kiefer, or a turntablist mixing records inside a shimmering sculpture by Cildo Meireles. From talking to hundreds of musicians who have performed in the Blanton’s galleries, I know how creatively exciting it is to be able to break outside of traditional concert venues and perform in a museum. What we do at the Blanton is help facilitate those creative connections by talking with the musicians about the art and planning a performance in which the music and art are in dialogue with one other.

So bringing the Blanton to SXSW for the first time promises to be a lot of fun. Not only are we looking forward to presenting our public programs to a global audience, but we’re also hoping to help encourage musicians and music industry professionals to pursue creative opportunities in art gallery spaces. We’re excited to be at the forefront of this trend, and hope that we can share our story about how to make these creative collaborations happen with everyone at SXSW!

The Blanton’s panel at SXSW will take place March 12th at 3:30 PM.

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