CIMAM's evolution from a mainly European “club" to a worldwide organization

CIMAM 1972 Annual Conference, "The Museum of Modern Art and the Artist". Warsaw, Lodz, Kraków. Poland.

  • Mami Kataoka, Director of the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, President of CIMAM since 2020, and the fourth woman to chair the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art in its 60-year history, celebrates this anniversary by reflecting on the course from the "modern" to the "contemporary" era of art and CIMAM's role during this period in supporting museum professionals and modern and contemporary art collections.
  • Growing up, reaching out, and reflecting webinar about the 60 year history and future of CIMAM, where Saskia Bos, CIMAM Board Member, art historian, and curator who led organizations in Amsterdam (de Appel) and New York (Cooper Union), will analyze the early history of CIMAM and the contents that were addressed throughout the first decades.
  • Saskia Bos has conducted extensive research on CIMAM's 60-year history highlighting the historical context, the actors and the most relevant topics discussed during the first half of the 53 editions of CIMAM's Annual Conferences. Mami Kataoka has analyzed and commented the last 30 years. This research, accompanied by a series of 21 interviews with former Board presidents, donors and curators, will be presented in a publication during the celebration of CIMAM's Annual Conference 2022 in Mallorca.
  • Mami Kataoka will conclude her term as CIMAM President at the end of 2022. During her three-year tenure, which began with a global lockdown due to Covid-19, Kataoka led CIMAM's digital revolution to stay connected to its community and continue providing answers to questions such as "what should be the functions of modern and contemporary art museums?" and "how are the environments, audiences, and publics of such museums changing?"

53 years as an International Committee and 7 years as an Affiliated Organization of ICOM

On July 5, 1962, the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM) was founded by 23 European members at the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague (The Netherlands) under the original French acronym CIMAM – Comité de l'ICOM pour les Musées d'Art Moderne (ICOM Committee for Museums of Modern Art).

“In the ‘60s, CIMAM came into existence. In those days, museums of modern art did not have their own place within the art section of ICOM. It was important to create such a space, as modern art is a field of its own within the entire art section.” argued Rudi Fuchs, then director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and President of CIMAM from 1992-98, during his introduction at the 1993 CIMAM meeting in Antwerp.

At the 2015 ICOM General Assembly in Paris, and with Bartomeu Marí as President of CIMAM (2013-16), CIMAM would cease to be an International Committee of ICOM to become an Affiliated Organization for operating purposes. Subsequently, in June 2015, ICOM and CIMAM signed a Memorandum of Understanding securing a continuity in their collaborations to achieve common goals.

53 international meetings debating on the most urgent topics for the professional modern and contemporary art museum community

Since 1962, CIMAM members have met annually to discuss the most pressing issues affecting the modern and contemporary art museum sector. In 1963, the discussions focused on forms of collecting, and Werner Hofmann, then director of today's MUMOK in Vienna, was asked to define what modern art was. Hofmann argued for greater diversity, demanding that the museum of modern art be a "chantier vivant des artistes de son époque." In 1972, in Poland, debates focused on artistic issues such as the pluriformity of the arts or interdisciplinarity, with a conference dominated by two voices: Pierre Gaudibert, founding director of the ARC in Paris, who was a strong advocate of the museum as a living space, as the artist's realm with which the public should be able to dialogue; and that of the passionate director of Lodz, Ryszard Stanislawski, who saw the museum as a "critical instrument" that could show "the spiritual kinship between the visual arts, including theater and cinema."

The 1979 Paris conference addressed the need for architecture as a consequence of the constant expansion of art museum collections. Modernity versus postmodernism was the main topic in 1981, and in 1983 David Elliott (CIMAM president from 1998-2004), then director of the Oxford Museum of Modern Art, suggested that instead of talking about a Third (read: underdeveloped) World, he introduced developing, for the conference of 1983, which he called: "Tradition and Innovation: Interaction between Traditional and Contemporary Art in a Developing World"

In 1990, in Los Angeles, Rosalind Krauss spoke of the influence of minimalism and industrial production on the museum as "hyperspace." Krauss: "We had this crucial experience not in front of what might be called art, but in the midst of a strangely empty grandiloquent space of which the museum itself-as a building-was somehow the subject."

(quotes from forthcoming article by Saskia Bos).

From the West to the world

The decentralization of CIMAM from Europe and North America started as early as 1980 during the conference held in Mexico entitled "The Museums and Their Responsibility Towards The World Patrimony", and in 1986 in Buenos Aires and Rosario, Argentina, under the title "Museums and the Future of Our Heritage: Emergency Call".

The first CIMAM Annual Conference held in Asia took place in Tokyo in 1994, marking the beginning of the rise of non-Western membership. Toshio Hara, director of the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, who was vice president of CIMAM at that time, observed that "common ground has been created for discussing contemporary art. The Western-centered view of art has changed to a more universal concept. A new perception of Asia has emerged."

In Asia, "The Changing Landscape of Contemporary Art and Asia" was the theme of the conference held in Seoul, Korea, in 2004, while "A Common Ground for Museums in a Global Society" was the central theme in Shanghai during its 2010 exhibition. The 2017 Singapore conference was the first to be held in Southeast Asia; one of its main themes was "the multiple cultural and artistic contexts of Southeast Asia." (quotes from forthcoming article by Mami Kataoka)

From a “club” to an international organization run mostly by women managing some of the world's leading museums.

Regarding gender, American Margit Rowell was the first woman President in 1991-92, thirty years after CIMAM was founded. Number two was Zdenka Badovinac between 2011-13, number three was Elizabeth Ann Macgregor from 2017-19, and number four is Mami Kataoka from 2020-22. But many women were Secretary / Treasurer and as such, played leading roles from the very start.

Mami Kataoka's vision and contribution as CIMAM President 2020-22

“Museum activities over the past 30 years have been strongly affected by multiple regional and global political and economic crises: the 1997 Asian currency crisis, the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., and the subsequent wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 and the global financial crisis that followed, the 2020 pandemic and beyond, the Russian invasion of Ukraine impacting on the CIMAM Annual Conferences held in these regions.” Mami Kataoka's reflection in CIMAM's 60th-anniversary book that will be released in November during the CIMAM 2022 Annual Conference in Mallorca, Spain.

During the three-year term chaired by Mami Kataoka, the Annual Conferences have reflected the reality of the international social and political landscape, highlighting in 2021, in Lódz and Gdansk, Poland, the urgency of "Under pressure. Museum in times of Xenophobia and Climate Emergency".

In 2020, with a global lockdown, the Annual Conference was canceled to offer the membership community a series of Rapid Response Webinars to provide quick and practical answers to the new daily needs arising for modern and contemporary art museum professionals in an era of drastic and accelerating digital transformation.

In its 54th edition, the CIMAM Annual Conference, entitled "The Attentive Museum. Permeable Practices for Common Ground" to be held in Mallorca (Balearic Islands), Spain, on 11–13 November, hosted by Es Baluard Museu d'Art Contemporani de Palma (Mallorca), speakers will address the role of museums as permeable entities with the potential to listen attentively to all their communities for an inclusive and equal representation.

Open webinar on 6th July 2022: “Growing up, reaching out, and reflecting: on its 60th birthday CIMAM invites you to influence the future”

As CIMAM is approaching the festive commemoration of its birthday during the coming Annual Conference with many members present, an open panel discussion has been organized on Wednesday 6 July at 13:00 CEST with museum directors and curators of modern and contemporary art from Asia, Latin America, and Europe to discuss past, present, and future of CIMAM with Board members and the audience.

President of CIMAM and director of Mori Museum Tokyo Mami Kataoka opens this webinar and goes back in time. CIMAM was born from the initiative of European professionals of modern and contemporary art museums in the 1960s. What has changed since?

Suhanya Raffel, CIMAM board member and director of M+ Museum Hong Kong ponders what visions and knowledge the Board needs to bring together to be able to propose projects and debates that help develop the careers of museum professionals?

The early history of CIMAM was analyzed by Board member Saskia Bos, art historian and curator who led organizations in Amsterdam (de Appel) and New York (Cooper Union), discusses what contents were addressed throughout the first decades.

Committees such as the Museum Watch, the Sustainability Group, and the Outstanding Museum Practices Award have provided resources and practical tools to assist the museum community in carrying out their work according to best practices. Chief Curator, Department of Modern Art at the National Museum in Gdansk Malgorzata Ludwisiak presents this broad spectrum, while asking: what new resources will CIMAM need to cover to remain relevant?

To reach these audiences, museums have adapted their programs' focus to tell stories that speak to through artists who connect with them. Agustin Perez Rubio, curator and former museum director has a background both in Europe and in Argentina. As head of CIMAM's content committee he presents the collective endeavour of The Attentive Museum, a conference topic meant to make the museum a place of attentive listening, to consider all the voices and stories that connect directly with the communities belonging to the geographical areas of museums.

The webinar audience is invited to question the speakers and suggest topics for CIMAM to consider, both for today as for future webinars and conferences.

The webinar will be moderated by CIMAM president Mami Kataoka.

For more information contact Mireia Azuara at the CIMAM Press Office: