Antonio Montalvan

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Modern art museums and its pedagogy to other museological genres

I am, first and foremost, an ethnographic and historical museum professional. In the CIMAM Barcelona 2016 conference, I was focused on the search for commonalities between modern art museums and ethnographic/historical museums. I proceeded from the premise that both genres are neither antithetical nor outliers to each other but rather are situated on a common space of production, which is culture. Having said that, I was proceeding from the postulate that both share porous borders and hence have much interactive principles with each other.

The conference discourse confirmed that postulation:

The institution of culture should have social responsibility. Because culture is he medium that gives identity to a nation, people are not just persons but are the link that produces identity. This is related to the principle in ethnographic museums where people given representations are accorded the status of stakeholders and hence are extended curatorial authority.

Alistair Hudson of MIMA articulates that on a related level: “A museum is curated with different constituencies on their own terms – art is not separate from life but a fundamental part of it.” In ethnographic and historical museums, for example, we must never evade the reflexive question: whose history are we writing and from whose perspective?

Dave Beech of Sweden echoes: Our work is working with people and making them become agents, proceeding from his premise that the museum has become a site of protest, where protesters can even protest against the museum not for its museology but for its non-museological complicity.

This proclivity for the museum to self-question and to self-criticize addresses the positions of Foucault and Adorno that museums are sepulchers of art. This has repercussions on a museum’s ability to have broad-based research, on its responsibility to teach, and on the overarching arrow that curators must always be able to ask: who tells the story?

And so as it is in ethnographic/historical museums, modern art museums are reminded of the values of inclusivity and the ability to express social justice. Curatorial genres indeed have porous borders.