IN BETWEEN: How are Contemporary Art Museums and their Stakeholders Dealing with a Fluid Situation?

#5 IN BETWEEN: How are Contemporary Art Museums and their Stakeholders Dealing with a Fluid Situation?

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Thursday 24 September 2020
2:00 pm CEST

  • Tone Hansen, PhD, Director of Henie Onstad Kunstsenter (HOK), Høvikodden, Norway
  • Zoran Erić, PhD, Chief Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, Serbia
  • Leevi Haapala, PhD, Director, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma / Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki, Finland.

Moderated by Ann-Sofi Noring, CIMAM Board Member, Co- Director, and Chief Curator, Moderna Museet, Stockholm, and Calin Dan, CIMAM Board Member, Director, National Museum of Contemporary Art - MNAC, Bucharest.


Welcome to a webinar panel with voices from the north, south-east and Balkan regions of Europe, including Finland, Norway, Sweden, Romania and Serbia. Covid-19 has affected every country in different ways, but our art museums have one thing in common: after being suddenly closed to the public, they are now open again. The reopening occurred slowly, with a lot of caution, as both museum workers and the general public must follow all kinds of new rules. In the current situation, which can easily be characterized as fluid, museums might be forced to close down again, if the pandemic gets worse.

In this framework, the mission of museums has not changed. They are still a crucial element of the public sphere, and thus agents of influence in the service of democracy. Directly and indirectly, museums are in charge of the wellbeing of various social and professional categories. From youth education to the entertainment of the elderly, from the inclusion of marginals to the administration of cultural heritage, from scientific research to the support of the independent art sector, museums are at the center of a complex web of agencies.

Despite various inclusive geo-political systems, in Europe politics, economics and culture have different dynamics according to country, and the experience of the pandemic and its consequences has been different from one place to another. This, together with the continuous fluidization of circumstances in the context of the pandemic, challenges us to answer many questions. Are the statements from above still valid? How can museums act for the public good? What is the public sphere in an era of pandemic? How is it manifest in countries with different cultural values and backgrounds?

How will these new experiences affect the very existence of museums in the long run? Will they become more nationally-centered than before? How will international collaborative networks develop during and after the pandemic? How will be the relation between museums and their public evolve? And how will museums maintain their position as active agents for the stimulation/support of cultural production?

Key words: pandemic, public sphere, local/national, international, cultural production, democracy.


  • The keyword is fluidity. Since the beginning of this year, we are in a constant flux situation, and the museum community is experiencing a wake-up call and a feeling that we can and must address important issues about the survival and functions of contemporary art museums and of the art scene. Calin Dan
  • When our museum closed down, we had to rethink what success is because numbers constantly measure us. There is no interest in actually discussing what quality is and what museums are doing and their functions. So it is a big challenge for programming a museum if you are programming for the numbers or the local audiences. Tone Hansen
  • In these times that numbers cannot measure us is a fantastic opportunity to think about our mandates. What kind of platform can the museums be in our society? How we deal with these mandates, how does our collection look like, how is our gender balance, how is the representativeness of the program, how do we create something that is locally important right now? Tone Hansen
  • What Serbian political oligarchy wants from art museums is to provide revenue, to work on big blockbusters shows in spite of pandemic. With recently introduced flexible epidemiological measures we are allowed to have more public, but the main question remains how to handle the museum programming in the current situation which is challenging particularly in respect to the educational role of the museum and work with the public, whom we consider is our most important stakeholder. Zoran Erić
  • Immediately following the crisis came the budget cuts for culture, and we are all on the edge of existence with no support from the Government for artists and free lance cultural workers. Different states are behaving in different ways in that respect, and some even extend substantial support to the artists, but Serbia is not among them. So the economic aspect can't be neglected, and I think this will be key for the future of museology for the years to come. Zoran Erić
  • We are part of the Finnish National Gallery, and our program and collections are national and international. We decided internally along the acquisition committees' work to support our local communities by focusing the new collection acquisitions in Finnish and nearby regions' artists during this special year of pandemic. Leevi Haapala
  • In terms of a sustainable future in times of the new normal, we have discussed the issue of traveling as a part of our Green Handprint program (instead of carbon footprint) and we had good comments about co-commissioning and co-producing things, as well as sharing costs with co-producing partners. Now we've promised to achieve the same carbon-free status as Finland has agreed for 2035. Leevi Haapala
  • What will the world become like when we cannot connect with each other like we used to? Is there new hope when we come throughout the worst part of the pandemic to build new bridges? It seems that we, museums, are based together and have more in common than we thought. Ann-Sofi

Did you miss it? Watch the webinar at CIMAM's only member section.