Saturday, 7 May 2016

So what?

“So what?”. A frequent question/reaction concerning our field, whether verbally expressed or secretly thought. It’s a legitimate question and one we are rarely available to discuss.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, "Retrato de Marten Soolmans" e "Retrato de Oopjen Coppit" (imagem retirada do jornal Telerama)

When I had first read the news about the joint acquisition by the Louvre and Rijksmuseum of Rembrandt’s Portrait of Marten Soolmans and Portrait of Oopjen Coppit, for €160 million, I didn’t exactly think “So what?”, but rather “Why?”. Why these two paintings? Why all that money? Once I tried to understand a bit better the importance of the paintings (whatever importance that might be, within the context of art history or any other), I was most often confronted with the adjective “rare”. The portraits are “rare”, being exhibited in public was extremely “rare, etc. etc. This brought up even more questions: Rare how? Why should they be seen more often? Why did these two public museums make such a huge (financial and collaborative) effort to acquire them?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

European Culture Forum 2016

Andrej Isakovic / AFP / Getty Images
A short intervention today in the panel "Can culture help to overcome the fragmentation of society?". Read here

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Recent past

Exhibition "Return - Traces of Memory", Lisbon

A few weeks ago I read Lily Hyde’s text Living Memory II, questioning the construction of narratives out of recent historical events. In this case, the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine and specifically in the town of Slavyansk. A bit more than a year before, Hyde had talked to the Slavyansk Museum director, Lilya Zander, who was already collecting Trophies from an incomprehensible war. At that time, the museum director had said that “Our job is to tell the history of our region”, adding that “the museum is not trying to show ‘for’ and ‘against’. We’re trying to show the facts.”

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Peacocks, ostriches and a third way

Anne Pasternak, Brooklyn Museum Director (Photo: Erin Baiano for the New York Times)

A few weeks ago, I read about six curators at the Canadian Museum of History who expressed ethical concerns about the purchase of artifacts recovered from the wreck of the Empress of Ireland. These concerns included the manner in which the artifacts were collected and the fact that the museum paid for artifacts from an archeological site. Not only were their objections dismissed, but the museum hired a lawyer and threatened them with legal action, were they to repeat their concerns to anyone else. According to the museum President and CEO Mark O’Neill, “Internal discussions like this are normal, and frankly, making them public is not” (read more). This statement left me thinking which would be the ‘OK’ subjects to discuss in public and, frankly, how come the conditions of acquiring objects for the museum collections is not one of them.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Can culture make it?


Paper submitted to the Annual Conference on Cultural Diplomacy, which ends today in Berlin. A compilation of older posts and some new thoughts. Read 

Monday, 30 November 2015

The museum is a person: some post-NEMO thoughts



How do we get more involved? How do we take a stand? Aren’t we going to alienate some people if they classify the museum as ‘leftist’ or ‘rightist’, like newspapers? How far can we go? What are the limits? These are some of the questions I had the opportunity to discuss with colleagues attending NEMO’s annual reference, following my talk Are we failing?