Posts Tagged ‘world class museum categeory’


in red: but who called her? … and what is her calling

For those who can read Dutch my article published on the 17th of April 2014 at the moment when Beatrix Ruf had just been appointed. Title: “Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam: Beatrix RUF her calling just in time, but who did call her and what is her vocation?” Indeed the title can hardly be translated into English as the German word ‘Ruf’ means call, ‘roep’ in Dutch and ‘roepen’ is verb meaning ‘to call/calling’, further the noun ‘roeping’ means in this context ‘vocation’.

The article is a documented analysis of the organisational structure of the Stedelijk Museum that was in origin (it’s best & most creative period) just a municipal museum for modern art as the name says. I explain the process of halfhearted privatisation, the practice of sponsorship by business tycoons and the double agenda strategy of those who invest and deal in art and use their position in the board of the Stedelijk Museum also to advance their social prestige and the market value of their art property.
My article questions the ‘world class’ status idea and the art-market-competition with a yearly list by the art-trade magazine Art Review of the “Power Top 100” in the art-market world in which Beatrix Ruf in 2013 held a 7th position, with Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Head of the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) and sister of the Emir, as number 1. [note 1]
When we look at the names listed in the ‘Roep Ruf Terug’ (Call Ruf Back) advertisement) we see several names of those who have been listed in the Top 100 international art-market-championship. The opening name Marina Abramović is for instance number 5 on the 2014 list. It must be clear this is a partisan call for many on the list, more than just a lobby, it has many characteristics of the meanings embedded in the Chinese (Cantonese) word ‘kongsi’ 公司 a traditional clan like structure that evolved with the diaspora of Chinese migrants to a world wide system of common cultural bound paired with common economic interest. Not all the ‘Roep Ruf Terug’ signatories do have a stake in the art market and several may have been attracted to pair their lesser known name with better known names (a standard phenomenon with all social-political advertisements in newspapers). [note 2]
I do have an alternative vision whereby I re-value the local over the international… as anything internationally acclaimed now, once had a local origin. Even miss Abramović was once local in Amsterdam – I do remember her as such far before she started to behave like a goddess doing these unbearable pretentious performances… (by the way she had the guts to send via social media a Kickstarter fund-raising appeal for some temple venue for her own glory in New York, if I remember well designed by another signatory of the Ruf list Rem Koolhaas, I had the dishonour to receive one of those appeals for money as well, what a shame!). [note 3]
How come that a municipal museum cannot have a director who has her or his roots first of all in the local and national art scene? That is a rhetorical question. The answer is that the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam is not anymore in the first place a local cultural and educational institution, but an asset in the international art-martket and mass-tourism industry. The pleasures of local uniqueness has given way to the uniformity of what has been pepped up, by the kongsi, to be of “global value”…
Another element is that these ‘flown in from abroad directors and curators’ lack a local power basis and tend to be moldable material in the hands of either the co-opted museum board members or public administrators.
I do not pledge for any provincialism, on the contrary, I think that the whole business type of dealing with ‘art’ by attracting so called ‘famous’ curators from abroad claiming it a necessary step to reach the eagerly wanted status of ‘world class museum’, is in itself the uttermost provincial attitude to be found in the year 2018. It is sheer lack of imagination. It is lazy. It is proof of incompetence. It negates all chances of the unpredictable, the core element of any creative act. It is repetition of the same hailed names and styles, the world over. Nothing new will come from it.

[1] In the 2017 list Beatrix Ruf has fallen down to position 27 on the Top 100 list, with this comment: “Tireless curator and adviser, ex-director of Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. // It has turned into a tough year for Ruf, who just resigned from her position as director of the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in the midst of alleged conflicts of interest between her institutional role and her broader activities as an adviser. While the effects of that remain to be seen, she nevertheless managed to develop a programme at the Stedelijk that navigates seamlessly between her usual focus on art’s next hot young thing and reexaminations of work by more mature practitioners, as recent shows for Jana Euler and Jordan Wolfson, but also Jean Tinguely and Ed van der Elsken, demonstrate. Furthermore, Ruf’s strength has always been her ability to operate as a meta-curator, in various advisory and panellist roles. In January, she launched the first Verbier Art Summit around the question of whether museums should consider ‘de-growth’, and she continues to be one of the core advisers to Luma Arles.”
See link…

[2] Advertisement in the local daily of Amsterdam Het Parool published Saturday 17. February 2018
[3] Last year the whole project was cancelled, let me cite an Abramović friendly source of October 6, 2017: “She will “probably sell” the building that was to become the $31 million Rem Koolhaas-designed center. Sarah Cascone, October 6, 2017 Marina Abramović with Rem Koolhaas’s model for the Marina Abramović Institute. © OMA. Citing a fundraising failure, Marina Abramović has announced that she will not move forward with plans to open a $31 million upstate New York facility for the Marina Abramović Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art (MAI). In a talk hosted by Fondation Beyeler and UBS at London’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery on Wednesday, the performance artist revealed that she had been unable to raise the money necessary to convert a 1936 former theater in Hudson into a center for durational performance art and multidisciplinary collaborations, as reported by the Art Newspaper.” See link…
There were also less friendly reactions after the raising of money for a project that flopped, which is a common occurrence now with fund-raising actions using social-media and the internet, an ideal becomes crooked very soon. Like this header in the New York Post of November 11, 2017: “Marina Abramovic raised $2M for canceled art project, hasn’t given money back (…) The artist is present but the cash is gone.”
Interesting to note how Rem Koolhaas has made sure he at least is paid, because he can be in everything, but not in charity:
“… last month the artist revealed she was abandoning the project, after learning the price tag had mushroomed to $31 million. Her surprise announcement left residents of Hudson and shocked donors questioning what she did with the cash. In addition to the 2013 Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $660,000, her non-profit institute raked in $1.5 million in donations between 2011 and 2015, tax filings show. Jay-Z gave “a substantial donation” to the Kickstarter campaign, according to press reports. He did not respond to a request for comment last week. Some Kickstarter donors complained that they did not receive their promised rewards for contributing to the institute and others wondered how their contributions were spent, if at all, and wanted an accounting. When asked if Abramovic would return the cash, a spokeswoman for the artist said all the money raised through Kickstarter, plus additional funds, went to pay Koolhaas’s firm.”
See link…
To close off this footnote on the first signatory for the ‘Roep Ruf Terug’ campaign of Mariana Abramavić, I cite a source that has asked Abramović for a reaction and did get back some accounts details on the failed project, in spite of its name the blog ‘Vulture – devouring culture’ gives her a chance to reply on November 14, 2017:

“This is terrible for me,” Abramovic said, before detailing how she personally contributed $1.1 million of the $2.2 million the institute raised. “The majority of those funds were direct contributions of my own money, which I earned as an artist.” As for the Kickstarter, which raised $661,452 (after Kickstarter’s administrative fee: $596,667), the purpose of that money was clear on the page: “This Kickstarter will cover the first phase of MAI’s development: the design process.” And that went toward the bill for Koolhaas’s firm for the schematic design (which cost $655,167.10). Artnet reported last week that backers wouldn’t be getting refunds.”

The conclusion of this article is nevertheless critical:
“Still, the Post is right about one thing: the understandable frustration that Hudson residents feel that the big, much-hyped building in the middle of town remains empty and dilapidated and full of pigeons. But it proved to be a money pit — $700,000 for asbestos alone — in addition to the unfeasible ambitions of the Koolhaas design itself. And so the institute will sell it, and focus on its traveling circus of projects around the world.”

The financial reeling & dealings of the first signatory of the campaign to restore Beatrix Ruf back in power are far from transparent. Is it her inflated personality that made Abramović undertake a project that was beyond her means? Can one say that someone who is able to raise a million or so from her own pocket is ‘naive’? How did she manage to have such personal capital? Certainly not by being naive. So we read that another signatory of the Pro-Ruf kongsi advertisement, Rem Koolhaas, did get his money for a plan that local observers in New York describe as the “unfeasible ambitions of the Koolhaas design.”

We locals do remember also newspaper articles about the costs of architect Rem Koolhaas who has been commissioned during the Beatrix Ruf ‘Stedelijk Museum directorship’ about an exceeding of a budget for interior museum redesign, originally estimated for 0.9 million costing 2,9 million in the end.
“De nieuwe collectie-opstelling van het Stedelijk was zo’n 2 miljoen duurder dan vooraf was aangekondigd, blijkt uit een brief aan de gemeente. (…) Stedelijk Base, de nieuwe collectieopstelling die door Koolhaas is ontworpen en op 16 december wordt geopend, heeft bijna 2,9 miljoen euro gekost, zo’n 2 miljoen méér dan was aangekondigd. De inrichting van de 1.100 vierkante meter grote kelderruimte duurde ook niet drie tot vijf maanden, zoals aangekondigd, maar ruim veertien maanden. Daardoor waren er veel langer dan gepland geen tentoonstellingen te zien.”  NRC 7.12.2017


All this side-references and -effects are a good illustration of the ‘world class museum’ concept and its propagators it leaves us with a
tapestry of interwoven ideals and personal gain
that can not be disentangled.

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