Collections in Transition: Decolonising, Demodernising and Decentralising?

Collections in Transition: Decolonising, Demodernising and Decentralising?

L’Internationale Online

(1) View of The Making of Modern Art, Van Abbemuseum, 2017. Photo: Peter Cox. (2) View of The Way Beyond Art, Van Abbemuseum, 2017. Photo: Niek Tijsse Klasen. (3) View of Brook Andrew’s Splinters of Monuments: A Solid Memory of the Forgotten Plains of our Trash and Obsessions, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, 2014. Photo: Joaquín Cortés, Román Lores.


September 1, 2017
Collections in Transition: Decolonising, Demodernising and Decentralising?

Symposium: September 22, 2017
Van Abbemuseum
Stratumsedijk 2
The Netherlands

In this symposium, L’Internationale reflects on the challenges art institutions face when taking on ideas of decolonising, demodernising and decentralising. What are the implications for collections and archives, and what can be expected from museums in years ahead?

The day will consist of exhibition tours, keynote speeches, presentations by L’Internationale museum directors, workshops, panel and plenary discussions.

For the full programme and tickets, please see here.

Part 1: Decolonising Public Art Institutions in Times of Transition? 
European art museums are rooted in nineteenth century thought and hold a complex position between being a public place for educational emancipation whilst simultaneously being firmly embedded in a mindset defined by colonialism. For example, considering some art canonical while other arts and art forms are marginalised implies an uncomfortable categorisation that mirrors power relationships between the coloniser and the colonised, or the rich and the poor. What does a decolonial museum look like? How do public programmes, collections and archives address a pluriversal world? Is a “museum of the commons” possible?

Rolando Vázquez (keynote), Assistant Professor of Sociology, University College Roosevelt of Utrecht University; Coordinator of the Decolonial Summer School, Middelburg
Manuel Borja-Villel, Director, Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid
Meriç Öner, Director, SALT, Istanbul

Part 2: Towards Demodernising Art History?
As a reference for assessing art globally, Western art history has always been inadequate. Its underlying hegemonic and colonial structures, its hierarchical categorisations and its linear, progressive thinking are no longer able to explain the art world and its products. The questions that this crisis raises are manifold. How can the legacy of modernity as a concept and a still-living tradition be addressed? Can recent scholarly insights and proposals for transnational and cross-cultural understandings of modernism be translated into museological practices? The speakers are all committed to historical analysis as a valuable tool to map relationships between different artistic practices and to museums as sites where new narratives can be told.

Geeta Kapur (keynote), art critic, historian and curator, New Delhi 
Zdenka Badovinac, Director, MG+MSUM, Ljubljana
Charles Esche, Director, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven

Part 3: Potential Tools for Decentring Museum Practices?
This part of the symposium will explore potential tools for decentring collections. Art collections and archives are the main asset of museums, yet they pose serious challenges for their management. They are the most tangible evidence of past and present value assessments, and, as such, allow for an evaluation of changing views on art and its role in society while they also force institutions to position themselves with respect to previous acquisitions. Deciding how, what and for whom to collect raises the core museum questions of value, gatekeeping and mediation.

Parallel moderated workshops aim to explore various ways to reuse, reactivate, remediate and revisit museum collections.

–Constituencies: museums as a social tool
–Common knowledge: joint research initiatives
–Mediating the collection: language, authorship and hierarchy
–Collection ontologies: decentring the canon

Part 4: Panel and plenary discussion
To conclude, we will reflect on the symposium’s findings and speculate on possible strategies to design the future museum.

Panel members, amongst others:
Ferran Barenblit, Director, MACBA, Barcelona
Bart de Baere, Director, M KHA, Antwerp
Bart Rutten, Director, Centraal Museum, Utrecht

Moderator: Chris Keulemans, writer, journalist and teacher, Amsterdam

This symposium is part of a three-day event Demodernising the Collection: Opening Weekend (September 21 to 23). It coincides with the opening of the new collection exhibitions and the “Deviant Practice” seminar. 

L’Internationale is a confederation of European museums working in collaboration with universities and other partners. Currently the confederation is operating within the five-year The Uses of Art – The Legacy of 1848 and 1989 programme. Its publishing platform L’Internationale Online presents articles, opinions and e-publications on the intersection of art, heritage and larger (geo)political questions.

Van Abbemuseum: T +31 (0)40 238 1000
Symposium contact: mariska.ter.horst [​at​]

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September 1, 2017

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