Mahnaz Asadi, CIMAM 2023 Travel Grantee

11 January 2024

CIMAM 2023 Travel Grantee Mahnaz Asadi, Head of the Museum of the Iranian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts (IMCTH), Tehran, Iran

“The dynamic character and importance of CIMAM’s Annual Conference, that besides the importance of connecting the region with the global, its equal importance lies in facing the challenges of our century, which means more intensive global cooperation and the wider diversity of contemporary art itself.”

Conference Report. November 2023.

ازگشته ام من از سفر ، سفر از من باز نمی­گردد...

Thanks to the generous support of CIMAM’s Travel Grant Program, I was extremely privileged to visit Buenos Aires for the first time to attend the CiMAM 2023 Annual Conference. I can definitely confirm that my short journey was full of examining gazes, endless observations, and stimulating discourses.

Perhaps as I started my journey with some political and social background of Iran, I found similarities in the artistic atmosphere of Argentina, because I believe that modern and contemporary art museums or institutes offer the opportunity to understand the contemporary thoughts of any nation, which in turn could be related to historical and political issues.

The Conference aimed to explore the concept of a co-creative museum and its role in promoting mutuality among diverse communities. The conference focused on ethics, values, and methods, promoting dialogue and promoting more with less, and aimed to leverage the arts for transformative experiences.

Personally, I was more interested in some case study perspectives in the three-day sessions, because I am more of a practical person.

The first day of the conference discussed the role of museums in promoting social responsibility, particularly in the Americas. Elvira Espejo Ayca emphasized mutual nurturing in art, while Nicolás Testoni from Argentina described Museo Ferrowhite in Bahía Blanca as a workshop museum that challenges colonial systems and promotes collective creation. Other presentations challenged conventional museum paradigms and advocated for mutual nurturing, community engagement, and shared ownership in the arts.

The second day of the Conference discussed the role of museums in communities, education, and accessibility. It highlighted the importance of museums in understanding art and fostering co-creative relationships with artists and local communities. Luis Camnitzer proposed an "Art Turn" to transform education from training programs. Marie Hélène Pereira presented RAW Material Company's project, "The Specter of Ancestors Becoming," focusing on the Senegalese-Vietnamese community's history.

The presentations collectively addressed crucial issues such as education, accessibility, social justice, and the transformative potential of art institutions, offering diverse perspectives and insights.

On the third day of the conference: speakers’ identity politics, museum ethics, and archives' impact on marginalized communities. Speakers Marian Pastor Roces, Luma Hamdan, and María Belén Correa from the Philippines, Jordan, and Argentina discussed the intersection of identity politics and modern art, the role of co-creative museums in contemporary Arab art, and the Argentinian Trans Memory Archive (AMT) in recovering and preserving historical memory. The conference underscored the importance of museums in fostering inclusivity, preserving diverse narratives, and engaging with social and ethical considerations.

I would like also to mention that the Museo Moderno's 2023 Exhibitions Program – "Art, That Endless River" – showcased Argentina's diverse contemporary art history from the 1960s to the present. The exhibitions, inspired by Borges's "Arte poética," aimed to highlight the creative power of Argentinian art in promoting change. A collaborative platform called "A Rolling Map of Argentinian Contemporary Art" was available for attendees to familiarize themselves with Argentina's art community, facilitate multicultural exchange, and forge professional relationships.

Among the program of visits, I was impressed by the academic standard of the exhibition that accompanied the conference. Notable visits included the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano, the Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat Art Collection, the galleries of the Bemberg Collection at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and various modern and contemporary art galleries.

It was extremely inspiring to visit the Centro Educativo Isauro Arancibia and the Borda Psychiatric Hospital (El Borda) and listen to some self-taught artists and see how art can engage them, leading to increased social interaction, better self-expression, and new thought processes.

I also had conversations with local artists or art experts from galleries such as NORA FISCH, Del Infinito, PIEDRAS GALERIA, W-galería, which allowed me to gain a greater insight into the art scene in Buenos Aires.

In essence, the program of visits was not just an event, but a dynamic exploration of the rich artistic tapestry of Buenos Aires, promoting inclusivity, collaboration, and a deeper understanding of Argentine contemporary art.

I already mentioned the dynamic character and importance of CIMAM’s Annual Conference, that besides the importance of connecting the region with the global, its equal importance lies in facing the challenges of our century, which means more intensive global cooperation and the wider diversity of contemporary art itself.

Perhaps, paradoxically, in order to co-create more effectively with our publics, we need first to focus on ourselves and our own creative identities, to spend some time thinking about our own aims and desires, our own personal satisfaction, our opinions, values, and bottom lines, what our creative ideas are and what makes our hearts sing. Once we feel comfortable and confident about that, we are then freed up to balance risk and responsibility, to try new things, to ask our audiences in to co-create in a whole range of different ways, and to lead everyone wherever we all want to go.

Finally, I would also like to thank the organizers from Buenos Aires, who arranged all the amazing details, professional visits, and wonderful events.

*The phrase " بازگشته ام من از سفر ، سفر از من باز نمی گردد..." is written in Persian, which translates to "I have returned from a journey, but the journey has not returned from me." It is a poetic expression indicating that someone has physically returned from a trip, but mentally or emotionally, they are still affected by it.


As a curator who graduated from the Faculty of Cultural Heritage, Asadi started her work at the National Museum of Medical History. After two years, she started working at Niavaran Complex and since the beginning of her career at this complex, she has worked in different positions She was the director of the Jahan Nama Museum (the museum of Queen Farah Pahlavi's private collection of modern art) and the Niavaran Private Palace (the main museum of the Niavaran complex, devoted mainly to contemporary art). She was also cultural deputy in Niavaran complex. In addition to her current position, she is also responsible for preparing documents for the "National Registered Heritage" in Niavaran complex.

Some of the exhibitions she has worked on as a researcher, museographer and curator are: (in the last five years)
•" Unrealised Projects" / Joint project Foundazione Mohsen Vaziri Moghaddam&Argo Factory/2021-2022
•"Green Art" Respecting the environment /May-June 2023
•"Unseen" Exhibiting modern Iranian artists /Feb 2023
•" Intangible heritage; "lullabies" and the event " A night with the museum" / Feb2022
•"Others in Iran " Exhibition of works by Alain Bailhache and Michalis Maroulakis /May 2022
•" Root in the soil" group exhibition of visual arts /Mar2022
•"Victor Vasarely, Colour and visual perception" / Feb 2021
•" (ICONOGRAPHY) and religious beliefs " (Jan 2023
•During the corona pandemic 2020 " The virtual exhibition and Live Programe "legible heritage" /"Another View" / Memorandum of Cities"
•" Hear the Hands" / Visual Arts Festival for the deaf people/ Oct 2021
•" Rain of UFOs " / llustration exhibition by 120 world and Iran travellers / 2022