Museums in Progress: Public interest, private resources? was the theme of the conference I have been part of, thanks to the travel grant awarded by the Getty Foundation and the assistance of CIMAM and Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art teams.
As a curator working for small private museums in a developing country, the conference was of much interest to me, as the institutions I work with are all privately funded.
Some of these institutions are new, and some are in operation since more than half a century. In a country were public support for the arts is limited; private museums, libraries and archives function in much the same way as their public counterparts.
But as the world is wide, there are many different models in which institutions like these are run; and our small initiatives in our country prove that the privatisation of museums is actually not a bad thing, at least for our context. However, I soon learned from both the speakers and my colleagues from around the world, that the diminishing public support for the arts, the increasing velocity and unregulated nature of the art market in a global scale, all art institutions that serve the public, be they publicly or privately funded, are affected.
Questions of ethics and governance regarding how public museums and private interests are negotiated, the nature of the many publics we serve and how museums ensure their relevance, the commodification of art, and the nature of Art itself, were raised during the conference.
Special focus was also given to how public and private art institutions operate in areas of conflict, particularly in the region, giving insight not only on how sustainability is achieved in this context –and how important it is to do so given the situation– but more implicitly on how global politics and public perception affect cultures, and how these are presented and are beyond nationalistic attempts but rather more on the preservation of ways of life.
Models on how art initiatives are sustained and how they creatively ensure public participation have been shared both in the conference and off session.
I leave the conference richer not only in understanding more about the role I play in my small corner of the world, but also on how big the world is, and with it, the immense possibilities of collaboration with like-minded colleagues from other parts of the world.