Tuesday, May 26, 2009

London - Kicking Off - Collecting in the 21st century

Since the begin of the new year Anna-Catharina Gebbers and myself, Kerstin Niemann, started a long-term research project on private, public and corporate collections of contemporary art.  Over the course of one year we aim to invite players, contributors and critical minds of the field of collecting to enclosed workshops, seminars and discussions. For us it is important to make links to current and local topics and strategies of collecting in different cities of Europe and Northern America, such as London, Berlin, New York, Miami, Hamburg and others. 


The project as such is an ambitious undertaking. The aim is to evaluate information from institutions, collectors as well as research literature and apply this gathered knowledge in the discourse of contemporary culture, which could lead into a publication and maybe a series of presentations.  We are just at the beginning of our journey through information and knowledge. Each collection is not only a collection of artefacts but also a collection of knowledge, strategies, concepts and different formats of production and exchange.


Under the direction of Elizabeth Neilson from the project spacee 176 of the Zabludowicz Collection Anna-Catharina and I were able to start off with our first set of presentations, discussions as well as questions on Friday the 22nd of May. Together with colleagues from private London collections and corporate collections we were able to discuss and learn more about current collecting structures, strategies as well as forms of presentations and engagement from one another. The focus of our presentation was on Berlin. Anna-Catharina introduced several private collections and collectors and their structures. I gave some background information in how far other institutions and initiatives, such as the Berlin Biennial, as well as individuals helped to further the growth and interest in Berlin as an art metropolis and thus shaped it into an attractive location for collectors to locate their "collector's" museums and forums. 


At the moment I work as a guest research curator at the Van Abbemuseum, a publicly funded museum of contemporary art in Eindhoven, the Netherlands (www.vanabbemuseum.nl). My work at the museum certainly influences my understanding of what a collection can be and aims to be in the 21st century. At the end of the presentation at 176  I asked the present collection colleagues what they feel is the responsibility of their institution in and for the public. The afterwards discussion and set of questions was rich and encouraged Anna-Catharina and I to expand our knowledge and thinking on collecting. The strategies of collecting as well as the ethos of how to present works from the collection certainly is different from collecting institution to collecting institution as I can recall from experience. Each collection and institution that works with the presentation of art and supports the production of artworks and the artists, gives a certain meaning towards the art in society. These institutions are part of the discourse and most of the time actively involved in defining the role of art in society.  

Kerstin Niemann, 26th of May 2009


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