THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD IN A CHALLENGE FOR PRESERVATION

The catastrophe for the loss of the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro by a devastating fire last Sunday reopens the debate on the investment of resources in the maintenance of these institutions. This museum had 200 years of history, housed the largest collection of natural history and anthropology in South America and was the fifth gallery in the world for its funds, with a collection that exceeded 20 million pieces. Only the huge 5-ton meteorite has survived. Unfortunately, the centre's employees had been demanding for years more resources for conservation and maintenance, drastically reduced in 2014. On the night of the fire, only four guards watched the building. Something insufficient to put the fire under control or ask for help more in advance.

National Museum of Rio after the fire

This tragedy questions why the budget for culture is the first to suffer cuts when a country must adjust to the current economic situation. And at the same time, it also raises a question of responsibility on how the maintenance of all these collections can be sustainable in the long term, something that is increasingly costly. Numerous authors and analysts say that reducing investment is more harmful than beneficial, because it restricts the options for attracting new funds, limits the scope and involvement of citizens, and, above all, decreases the dissemination and enhancement of collections.

Royal Academy of San Fernando

Another recent case that raises questions about good management is the deterioration of the collection of the Royal Academy of San Fernando. The institution has been complaining for two years about the demolition and construction works of the Canalejas complex, located on the opposite sidewalk, which have damaged its aeration system and have introduced a huge amount of suspended dust that is now dropping on the paintings and sculptures of its rooms. The academy has closed to the public several rooms, waiting to restore the artworks and to ensure their conservation. Some critical voices point to the fact that the works undertaken in the area did not include an adequate plan on the consequences of the demolition, and that at the first signs of damage, the impact and the action-measures should have been re-evaluated.

Works in Canalejas

Likewise, it is striking that being Spain a country with such protectionist regulations of our cultural heritage, some actions, often irreversible, that involve a direct attack against the maintenance of goods, are allowed. The Canalejas complex that we mentioned above is today an empty shell of what was a group of historic buildings in this central block of the city. From a bird's eye view, we can only see the façades standing. The project, after several missteps, standstills, and administrative requalifications to eliminate the status of "protected" property, seemed to obey more economic-urbanistic criteria than the conservation of heritage.

Let's take all these examples as a lesson in life from which to draw good teaching. We make culture among everything and it is for everyone, beyond ourselves.

 

The cultural agenda gradually recovers after the health-crisis halt and art lovers are eager to enjoy the rich cultural offer that the different spaces and museums throughout our geography have to offer. In addition, one must remember that these centres have made an enormous effort to adapt to the demands that the new situation imposes and have created abundant online-accessible content to overcome confinement. We bring you a selection of content that can be visited both in person and through the web. There is no excuse for not enjoying contemporary art again.

Olafur Eliasson, “En la vida real (In real life)”, 2019

The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao continues with its exhibition dedicated to Olafur Eliasson and offers numerous resources to understand not only the exhibition but also the work of the centre in the assembly and installation process. The website allows us to expand content with interviews with the artist, the download of the audio guide and the vision of the curator Lucía Aguirre, who offers us different video-pills on the pieces in the exhibition.

"Olafur Eliasson: in real life" brings together a part of this artist's work since 1990 through sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations that play with reflections and colours. Likewise, the integration of elements such as moss, water, ice, fog... put the visitor in a situation that confuses the senses and tries to challenge the way we perceive our environment and move in it.

Regina de Miguel, “Isla Decepción”, 2017

The Botín Centre in Santander hosts the exhibition "Collecting processes: 25 years of Itineraries" which brings together the work of 25 of the 210 scholarship recipients who, to date, have enjoyed the Botín Foundation Plastic Arts Scholarship, started in 1993. With the works Lara Almárcegui, Basma Alsharif, Leonor Antunes, Javier Arce, Erick Beltrán, David Bestué, Bleda and Rosa, Nuno Cera, Patricia Dauder, Patricia Esquivias, Karlos Gil, Carlos Irijalba, Adrià Julià, Juan López, Rogelio López Cuenca, Renata Lucas, Mateo Maté, Jorge Méndez Blake, Regina de Miguel, Leticia Ramos, Fernando Sánchez Castillo, Teresa Solar Abboud, Leonor Serrano Rivas, Jorge Yeregui, David Zink-Yi, the exhibition is a good example of up-to-date and young contemporary art contributed by artists with very diverse profiles.

Clemente Bernad. Series “Ante el umbral”, Madrid, 2020

The Reina Sofía Museum wanted to create a visual chronicle of what the confinement and the tragic numbers of infected and deceased have meant for the lives of many of us: a tale of pain, nostalgia and uncertainty made by the photographer Clemente Bernad. This exhibition, curated by Jorge Moreno Andrés, is entitled “Before the threshold”, a title that expresses the strange sensation that occurs when faced with something new and unknown, something that we cannot control or avoid, and that we all must go through. The alteration imposed on our lives unexpectedly is reflected in the streets, transformed into places of solitude and abandonment where life has been paralysed.

Mario Merz / No title, Triplo Igloo, 1984 MAXXI Collection

At the IVAM, the exhibition "What is our home?" brings together works from the IVAM collection and the MAXXI centre in Rome to propose a reflection on the space we inhabit seen from a personal and social perspective. It is about investigating the value that these spaces have as a home or refuge, as well as part of a city or community.

The exhibition, curated by José Miguel G. Cortés, also wants to delve into the feeling of those who feel like foreigners anywhere, because they do not identify with the habits or customs of the society, they do not fit into these social patterns, and home becomes the only shelter space that can adapt to their identity needs.

Martha Rosler, frame from “Backyard Economy I-II”, 1974 © Courtesy of Martha Rosler, 2020

Es Baluard Museu is committed to video creation and performance and hosts the monographic exhibition “Martha Rosler. How do we get there from here?” dedicated to this New York artist who pioneered the use of video as a mechanism for social and political analysis. This exhibition includes various works, from video to photography and several publications, which synthesise her main lines of discourse. Her concern for public policies and the social equality of women has led her to actively participate in numerous social movements in La Havana, New York, Mexico DC or Barcelona, and these experiences are present in one way or another in her work.

With the curatorship of Inma Prieto, a selection has been made within the abundant production of this artist, which presents one of the most coherent careers in towards-the-new-Millenium contemporary art.

Image from file, via meiac.es/turbulence/archive/acceso.html

The MEIAC - Museo Extremeño e Iberoamericano de Arte Contemporáneo, host the works of the prestigious international digital art archive "Turbulence", a platform dedicated to network and hybrid art. In view of the inevitable closure of this institution, the MEIAC has offered to host all this valuable content collected since 1996. The uploading of the file also served as an opportunity to restore numerous pieces and convert formats so that files that had become obsolete remain readable by new systems. A huge job of conservation and updating that can be enjoyed online today. The archive is made up of hundreds of digital works from around the world that can now be visited remotely.