A total of 24 modern and contemporary art museum professionals residing in 19 different cities have been awarded support to attend the CIMAM 2019 Annual Conference The 21st Century Art Museum: Is Context Everything? that will be held in Sydney, Australia 15–17 November 2019 hosted jointly by the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
Launched in 2005, CIMAM’s Travel Grant Program is designed to foster cooperation and cultural exchange between contemporary art curators and museums directors in emerging and developing economies and their counterparts in other regions of the world.
Giancarlo Hannud's Conference Report
I should like to start this report by thanking the Getty Foundation for its support and generosity in funding 14 grants for contemporary art curators and museum professionals from around the world. It is needless to say that the momentousness of such an opportunity is one that cannot be overstated. During the duration of the conference, I had the chance of conversing and exchanging ideas with some of the most relevant, prominent and influential professionals active today in the field. This privilege alone is one that would have made my participation more than worthwhile. However, I would like to propose a different reading of the significance of my participation, one that in no way undermines the opportunities I already mentioned, but what made this year’s conference particularly meaningful, and one that I will cherish for a long time.
It is very rare that a professional from an emerging market and developing economy such as my own has the chance to meet other professionals from the same background. The ability to exchange ideas with curators from countries such as Morocco, Honduras, Poland, and Nepal, to mention but a few of the countries represented in the conference, is of great significance and, I would like to believe, of momentous consequences. At variance with the well-funded and established art systems present in some countries, the ones found in developing economies suffer from a persistent lack of funding and visibility, and from the consequences, both positive and negative, of the ad hoc solutions we inevitably have to make use of in order to get the job done. These particularities, which I imagine can be rather difficult to grasp when seen from different perspectives, many times threaten the very existence of these systems, not to mention the more perverted and sadly uncontrollable influences and consequences of censorship, both direct and indirect. Being able to exchange experiences and solutions found to these peculiarities in different latitudes and longitudes was a dazzlingly fruitful one. For this, I must thank CIMAM as well as the other travel grantees, without whom this would not have been possible.
The fact that this meeting of minds originating from the “margin” should take place in a conference organized by the principal players from the “centre” is one that should not be forgotten and says a good deal of the power relations existent in the so-called international discourse of contemporary art museums. Power relations that must be reconfigured if we are to continue to assert the intellectual vitality of our times, for it is a fact well worth remembering that the main characters of this play depend on the supporting ones just as much as the other way around. A question that I saw myself asking time and time again after the end of the conference was that perhaps it is time the “margin” conversed with its correspondents without the intermediation of the “centre”, that these conversations should be held not via the traditional, already existent forums, of which CIMAM is one of the most consequential ones, but through the creation of new ones, forged according to the varied necessities and inclinations of its members. I do not wish to sound critical of CIMAM or the notion of the grants, for they are of pivotal importance for the beginning of such a conversation, but rather to propose new questions in order to glimpse other possibilities. It is my belief that the possible, perhaps even utopian, existence of a new channel of discussion, capillary rather than nucleic, would not preclude the importance of more traditional forums, but rather exist in parallel to it.
Finally, in order to conclude this short report, I would like to mention what to me was the most lucid of statements pronounced during the conference. It is an undeniable fact that museums have changed. They are no longer places for contemplation, subjectivity, but rather places of experience, community. A question that should be asked is whether precisely due to this fact should we not be rather more interested in the objects themselves than the discourses they contain? As Franklin Sirmans, Director, Pérez Art Museum Miami, USA, said in his keynote speech “the objects are the things we love”. Let's hope we can keep that love alive.