My participation at the CIMAM Annual Conference in Doha represented a great opportunity to meet with peers who work in contemporary art institutions worldwide.
More than that and apart from exercising one’s networking qualities, the most satisfying thing about the conference has been listening to an heterogeneous set of opinions about a problematic issue which defines the contemporary art system nowadays –the unavoidable imbrication of public interest and private resources.
It is a topic which resonates with institutions and professionals working in big and small organizations alike, in widely different contexts and facing intensely dissimilar kinds of pressures.
I found particularly poignant Hito Steyerl inaugural keynote lecture, The Secret Museum, which set the parameters of the ensuing interventions and discussions. Steyerl claims that under the current conditions of capitalism we must incessantly ask ourselves which are the conditions of possibilities for art.
The globalization of the art market triggers not only the accelerated circulation of art as commodity but it also entails a radical modification in the way we conceptualize space and time. The invisibility of art, stored in carefully hidden containers in tax-free zones, makes a case for a new, incomprehensible regime under which the act of collecting and art itself function. Another recurrent topic was that of the relation between small and big institutions, a power dynamic theorized in the illuminating talk given by Maria Lind, where she spoke about the fruitful dialectics between “brains” (small institutions) and “muscles” (big institutions). In her opinion, which I share, the innovative potential of small-scale organizations, which due to their ingenious flexibility are able to continuously test, research and redefine the relevance of art, should somehow be channeled– even if through deferred action –by the big contemporary art institutions which have a greater influence and power in the society.
One final word, the hospitability of the organizers in Doha was exemplary. I can only hope that the CIMAM gathering will play a role in the way in which the institutional landscape in the Middle East is currently being shaped.