AICA-Turkey dialogues with CIMAM

11 December 2019

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This article was originally written and produced by AICA-Turkey, published 9 December 2019.

Global dialogue from AICA-Turkey and CIMAM

The International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM), which has been active since 1962 with over 600 members from 86 countries, answered the questions of AICA-TR during the general assembly and the new presidential election held in Australia in November. This joint conversation, which brought together the new President of CIMAM, Mami Kataoka, and its senior members, brought many common issues back to the global agenda.

The International Art Critics Association of Turkey (AICA-TR), while recently in Australia's capital for the summit in Sydney, held a joint interview with the new CIMAM management team. Founded in 1962 as the Modern International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art, the organization operates to create a global network in the field of modern and contemporary art, and to realize solutions and awareness of all kinds of problems required by this profession and to play a leading role on related issues.

Evrim Altuğ, Gökçe Dervişoğlu Okandan, Ece Balcıoğlu and Çiğdem Zeytin supported the interview with the questions (in alphabetical order), which arose from an open call to the members via AICA-TR's joint e-mail communication group.

Answers from Elizabeth Ann Macgregor, Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and outgoing President of CIMAM; Mami Kataoka, Deputy Director and Chief Curator at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo and Frances Morris, Director, Tate Modern. London, United Kingdom.

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Elizabeth Ann Macgregor is director of the Museum of Contemporary Art and outgoing president of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art.

Questions from Evrim ALTUĞ (arts journalist, member of AİCA Turkey, Directional Board, Vice President)

Mr. Osman Kavala, founder of the Anadolu Kultur organization and one of the most important philanthropists in Turkey, has been in prison without any specific verdict of guilt for almost two years. Do you want to send a message of solidarity to him and other academics and intellectuals facing prison here?

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor: In January 2019, CIMAM’s Museum Watch Program released a statement about Osman Kavala and the Turkish cultural professionals. CIMAM asked for Osman Kavala to be immediately released and for a lifting of the travel bans and an immediate resolution of the cases against the individuals listed in the statement. CIMAM’s statement can be read following this link:

Would you like to make a CIMAM summit in Turkey? What would be a possible program and topic, and why?

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor: The CIMAM 2012 Annual Conference was held in Istanbul hosted by SALT. Titled “Museums Beyond the Crises” the meeting gathered 218 delegates from 58 different countries. The conference program included visits to Arter, Depo, Galerist, Istanbul Modern, The First Istanbul Design Biennial, Rampa, SALT Galata, and SALT Beyoglu. Every two years, CIMAM runs an open call for members to submit a candidature to host the next Annual Conferences in their institutions.

Let's re-visit the motto of ICOM, where it is says, “Museums have no borders, they have a network.” So, with this in mind, what are some of the most urgent problems that today's institutions are facing?

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor: One of the current key issues is how museums respond to the challenging political circumstances around the world and the rise of activism using social media. For example, in the US and UK, museums have become the target of activists seeking to enforce censorship of certain kinds of work, as in the case of the Guggenheim’s Chinese exhibition last year, or to highlight issues with sponsors and trustees whose activities are antithetical to many artists. Social media has become an effective weapon for groups to attack institutions. As many museums are also facing a reduction in public funding, which requires more engagement with the private sector, how to negotiate these difficult situations is a major concern for directors and boards. Being part of a network where these difficult issues can be discussed among colleagues highlights the importance of CIMAM.

As you may know, there was a dystopian movie, Children of Men, where a wealthy man tries to save all the cultural goodies in order to escape from Earth's climate of chaotic, anarchic, and war-zone insecurity.... So, what do you think when you bring together these two subjects: "Climate Change and Museums"?

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor: Art museums have a responsibility to set an example in response to climate change, which is not easy for an industry that prides itself on having opened up in the recent past to become a global network, resulting in both people and works of art traveling around the world. Other aspects, such as challenging the (unnecessary) orthodoxy of gallery conditions, which may only need to apply to a much smaller number of works, could make a major contribution to energy saving. As with all businesses, staff will demand that museums examine their practices carefully to reduce their carbon footprint. CIMAM is working on a climate change initiative that will publicize examples of good practice.

Please let us know what are the key discussions of the upcoming CIMAM annual conference, from your perspective.

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor: Leading on from the previous question, the importance of museums responding to their context is even more critical. The opening day will address the issue of how museums should engage with First Nations, (the question of the de-colonization is highly pertinent for many museums), we will then examine the future of collecting, recognizing that museums are acquiring and having to store many more artworks than they will ever be able to exhibit, and finally how museums engage communities outside the institution.

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Mami Kataoka, Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan

Question from Ms. Çiğdem Zeytin (Member of AİCA Directional Board, 2019, Turkish section).

With the challenging transformation of the art audience profile globally, do you think that there is a need for changing the paradigm on museum direction and management; and what are your plans on behalf of your recent position at CIMAM?

Mami Kataoka: As contemporary art reflects the world’s political, economic, and the social changes and histories of respective regions in itself, contemporary art museums must be/remain the utmost platform for discussing this multi-layered world from diverse perspectives.

It is interesting that the changing paradigm on museum direction and management has been a part of the ICOM-proposed “new definition of the museum.” The fact that the proposition wasn’t fully accepted in the last ICOM Annual Conference in Kyoto in September 2019 and its discussion will continue in the coming year, is something of a reflection of the complexities and difficulties that museums are currently facing.

CIMAM and its members are also expected to continue this discussion along with ICOM. Urgent issues such as climate change and museum ethics under complex political circumstances are likely to be the priority matters that CIMAM must work on together with ICOM in the coming years.

Are you willing to design any residency programs that collaborate between museums and art critics-journalists globally?

Mami Kataoka: We have yet to fully discuss collaboration with AICA (art critics/journalists), however, it will be of great interest if contemporary art professionals could have dialogues with AICA members. I would certainly take it up with the CIMAM Board members and discuss the possibility with them.

Question from Ms. Gokce Dervisoglu Okandan (Director, Istanbul Bilgi University, Cultural Management Master Program).

Lately, I'm interested in “co-working” spaces, which can create some creative hubs that redefine a “new” public space. Several years ago, I attended a meeting at Lecce by ENCATC. At the entrance to the city was a 'Fab-Lab' model. When I had asked an official at the municipal board about this, I was told that they were using this method because the city's museum had fewer visitors and saw this as a way of increasing numbers. I'm witnessing a similar model in Istanbul ( Some provide their service by tickets, others by membership, while still others use these kind of big and “empty” areas for free. So my question is, after the Pompidou Centre, where are we now?

Mami Kataoka: The contemporary art museum as a system exists all around the world, however, its business model differs by regions and its founding purpose. Infrastructure for funding and operating museums can be also very different from one to the other. While the idea of the museum is always associated with the concept of not-for-profit and public, this needs to be re-examined in different interpretations in relation to the recent complexities of market, sponsorship, and all other factors. There is no perfect model for the museum, and even a “successful” model will not remain successful forever. Museum professionals must bring their wisdom and experience together to find different sustainable models within respective context, and an organization like CIMAM is a very productive platform for this.

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Frances Morris, Director, Tate Modern. London, United Kingdom

Question from Ms. Ece Balcioglu (Director, Evin Art Gallery, Istanbul TR):

Archives have significant weight for museums. In this direction, how do you plan to ensure the permanence of archives? What methods do you have for the future? How do you evaluate the increase in the cooperation of the private sector?

Frances Morris: Ensuring the integrity of collections and archives is a key commitment for CIMAM members. As an organization, we do not endorse deaccessioning and see collecting works of art and archives as integral to the very definition of the museum. Museums need to be extremely discerning in their collecting, mindful of issues of sustainability and conservation.

Many of us depend on the generosity of private individuals in building our collections through gifts of cash and works of art, and we encourage museums to take full ethical concerns into account when collaborating with the private sector. Unfortunately, museums are more and more reliant on external and private funding as government support diminishes. We are fully aware of the potential conflicts of interest that arise in public/private partnerships and the need for transparency and clear governance.