We are happy to share the CIMAM 2017 Conference Report with information about the delegates, the budget, the travel grantees’ reports, the press clipping, the result of the evaluation survey and a selection of photos. You can also watch the conference sessions at CIMAM TV.
In the months preceding this year’s conference, the Board of CIMAM was involved in debates about a number of issues in the USA around censorship. It is a sad reflection of the times that one of the most contentious pertained to the Guggenheim’s withdrawal of three works involving animals from the Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World exhibition following threats of violence against staff. CIMAM was invited to sign a petition protesting the withdrawal of the work by the National Coalition Against Censorship but acknowledging the very difficult situation the gallery faced, we decided to invite the Director and the Curator of the exhibition to address the Board during our meeting in Singapore and to put the subject onto the agenda for our general assembly.
The issues were thoughtfully addressed in the general assembly, as well as the situation regarding the inability of the Getty Foundation to support a colleague from Iran for our travel grants program because of the sanctions which prohibit support of any external program which involves delegates from the government of Iran. It was agreed that if the Getty Foundation cannot secure exemptions, CIMAM will not seek funding for next year’s conference. The matter of the updated bylaws passed with little comment with the exception of one vital comment about the role of the artist and a plea for CIMAM not to be too rigid in its definition of collecting.
The general assembly came at the end of three days of fine presentations, discussions and opportunities to network in the grand surroundings of the renovated and rejuvenated National Gallery Singapore. The keynote speakers and presenters of case studies delivered thought-provoking and diverse responses to the three topics: Art and the City: From Local to Transnational, Re-learning Southeast Asia and What Do Museums Collect, and How? – topics that felt both relevant and appropriate even if there was some frustration that inevitably more questions were raised than answers provided. The superb organization by the Singapore team also allowed time for a ‘speed dating’ exercise for delegates to get to know others over an informal lunch and for visits to the important arts and heritage sites of the city.
With typical ambition, the Singapore team also organized both a pre and a post-trip to give participants an opportunity to visit more of the region. Vietnam or rather Ho Chi Minh City came first with visits to a fascinating array of organizations, an artist’s studio and historic sites – a hectic 48-hour schedule made more dramatic by the torrential rain! The post tour was to Indonesia with visits to both the Jakarta and Jogja biennales complemented by private collections, artist houses/studios, independent spaces and the recently opened MACAN museum. The dawn trip to Borobudur was unforgettable.
As I reflected on the conference on the long trip back to Australia, it became clear to me that it was the immediacy of the issues which made this conference seem so relevant and reinforced the importance of CIMAM. The sharing of responses and suggestions for appropriate action is a vital part of CIMAM’s remit as we deal with very real challenges to our sector. The Board has now established a number of working groups to look at these issues and we will be reporting back to the next conference in Sweden.
I do hope you will join us in Stockholm.
Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE
President of CIMAM
Director, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia