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Forum Permanente is a Cultural Association that serves as a platform for cultural action and mediation and operates nationally and internationally on different levels of the contemporary art system. Its framework is based on a network of partnership with various players in the arts and culture fields, arts institutions and foreign cultural agencies. In operation since 2003, the main Forum Permanente initiatives include curating of discursive and dialogic events, organization of workshops on curatorship, coordination of research, organization of specialized publications, dissemination of contemporary art related events and art institutions, online streaming of activities and publishing of critical reports on these activities. The website functions as an interface and thus in a hybrid way operates as a museum-laboratory, as a magazine, as a living archive, by hosting projects, research, debates and dossier files, as well as providing text and video recordings of all activities undertaken by Forum Permanente. The website content is published under a free license, allowing its reproduction for non-commercial purposes.

The Forum Permanente thus fosters the sharing of ideas, experiences, knowledges that relate to the universe of the art museums/institutions nowadays, and it is doing so by mainly networking them and the different actors involved in these process through cultural mediation that could be understood as a cultural critical diplomacy. What we have been doing is to coordinate and mediate encounters willing to develop the debate, the dialogue and the interchange between different actors of the global art system wishing therefore to amplify our practices, our thinking and also our criticism. This strategy also aims to turn the knowledge and the information produced in this venture transparent and available to the public. This is why we associate ourselves, since the beginning, in 2003, with the copyright license Creative Commons.

Cultural critical diplomacy is being developed by the Fórum Permanente by what seems to be a quite unusual model of a mix or hybrid version of a museum, an archive, a data-base and a memory/reference centre. We have named this new institutional condition as a "": a hybrid organization that appropriates some characteristics from "real" institutions and from "virtual" ones and strategies of action from different players of the art system, be them artists, curators, the public and other producers involved. Cultural Critical Diplomacy since it also faces objectively "transnational" processes in equal terms, or at least is willing to. We understand that what we are doing is to develop a critical and contextual standing point in a world that is at the same time local and globally connected. The success of this plataform is also due to a quite productive partnership model, which since the beginning worked with foreign cultural agencies such as the Goethe Institut (which in fact has given all the necessary support to start this venture), AECID- Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (Spanish), the British Council, the French and Dutch Consulates in São Paulo, the São Paulo State Cultural Department, the State Research Agency - FAPESP, the Computing Centre of the University of São Paulo - USP and also the main art institutions in São Paulo, such as the São Paulo Biennial, the Pinacoteca, the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo, the Centro Cultural São Paulo, the Paço das Artes, The Afro-Museum, and also with other organisations related to the art market such as the SPArte and art galleries. The Forum Permanente is a direct result of an academic project developed in the School of Communication and Arts of the University of São Paulo.

Since 2003 a small but very active group that form the Forum Permanent´s team have managed to create and develop a plataform / interface which is able to bring to the same field, contradictory / contrasting / redundant versions of what an art museum or institution should be or at least stand for in a "peripheral" situation such as ours in Brazil. This is not all, since we have also been able to develop specific programs that analyse the different contemporary art contexts, such as for example tendencies of  public art nowadays and how institutions are reacting to them. Another issue of interest is curating contemporary art. There is a series of workshops and events that have focus this new form of managing art & culture always involving local and foreign expertise. A significant result of this venture was the international encounter on curating, organised by the Forum Permanente in the Centro Cultural São Paulo in September 2010. Another investment has been in the coverage of important international meetings in the field of art museums and contemporary art. We started this trend with the CIMAM-ICOM meeting here in São Paulo back in 2005. Other important coverages were the seminars of the 27th São Paulo Biennial, (2006), the 12th Documenta (2007), the 2008 ARCO fair in Madrid, Sonsbeek 2008 in Arnhem, Holland, The Now Museum Conference in the New Museum in NY on March 2011.

In events foster by the FP with its partners since October 2003, the "foreign specialist"  (have a look at our guests list here) is invited for a dialogue, for an interchange vis-à-vis with a "local specialist(s)". Apart from recording all these meetings and most of the times webcasting them, we have also been inviting young art writers (critics,historians, journalists, artists, etc) to write critical reviews of each of these gatherings, that can be, on one hand, simple lectures, however, on the other, something much broader such as "international symposiums" (we have organised two of them in partnership with our local Kunsthalle, Paço das Artes: Patterns in Disarray; Contemporary Thought in Art (2005) and Space, Acceleration and Amnesia: Art and Thought in Contemporaneity(2007), a series of workshops on curating issues and other dialogical formats that we have been developing and improving during these years.


Martin Grossmann

June 2011




Permanent Forum: Art Museums; between the public and private domain

Original text written in june 2004 by Martin Grossmann

The Context

In spite of the great success achieved by Contemporary Brazilian Art both locally and abroad, its institutional context is still very unstable. Important art museums in the country and even the “Fundação Bienal de São Paulo” suffer from frequent financial and political crisis. Nevertheless we have recently observed expressive changes and interventions in this vulnerable - yet extremely fruitful cultural landscape, such as: the expansion and renewal of cultural material resources, facilitated and financed by Cultural Incentive Laws and other public and private funds; the creation and strengthening of private institutions that represent the country's culture, both in the national and in the international scope; the emergence and growth of cultural institutions linked to large financial corporations; the existence of scattered attempts to update and renew the architectural and symbolic languages related to the current cultural apparatus, like museums, cultural institutes or centres.

The parameters of the changing and increasingly expanding Brazilian “industry of culture ” are complex, fluctuating and vulnerable. The country is going through a transition, and it faces not only the idiosyncrasies of old institutional structures, but also the demands and challenges of a contemporary condition that asks for the internationalisation of culture and the development of professional skills within culture. Although the resources available - as a result of professional development and updating - are improving and growing, they still do not suffice to properly respond to the particularities and requirements of this “industry”. An editorial market that is still being consolidated and the small space allocated to cultural affairs on the printed media are not enough to generate and sustain critical and mobilizing debates. There are many important points to be discussed, but some of them deserve special attention. Permanent Forum is mainly concerned with problems that affect the agents, the processes and the means of the national art system, especially those concerning art museums - cultural “key conductors” that represent and perpetuate actions and creative production.

The Forum

In Brazil’s mutant and fluid context, more inclined to the disarray than to the consolidation of cultural programs and policies capable of producing mid and long-term results, Permanent Forum: Art Museums; between the private and the public realms stands to promote the interaction of concerns and of positive and transforming actions associated to this system. Having as its backdrop not only the Brazilian local context but also the international one, its primary intention is to become a shared dimension for cultural institutions, their leaders, technical staff and other people that, directly or indirectly, are part of this cultural field. As a platform for critical discussion and also as a kind of virtual museum, the Forum thus intends to raise considerations and to provoke actions concerning the role of the Art Museum in times of ‘spectacularization’ and virtualisation of culture. This is its main goal. There is, however, a subliminal and formative objective: to contribute, in a significant and mobilizing manner, to the development of the visual arts cultural-political context by encouraging cultural interchanges within and beyond its national boundaries.

Permanent Forum is structured around interactive and real events (lectures, debates, seminars and workshops) and their unfolding in the virtual sphere, which take place in cultural spaces across the city of São Paulo and on a website specifically designed for that purpose <>. Permanent Forum will initially last for two years. Its future will result from the debate and development of the Forum itself.  Regular events will have the participation of renowned art professionals. Furthermore Permanent Forum intends to take advantage of the presence of directors, trustees, thinkers and national/international artists who often visit São Paulo. These specialists will occasionally be invited to present their ideas and experiences regarding the function and situation of the art museum today. All the events will be monitored and archived by Permanent Forum’s organizers. All edited materials will be available from the Forum’s website, where visitors will also be able to participate in a continuing online debate. In 2006, this cycle of lectures, workshops, seminars and meetings will close with an International Conference in São Paulo with the presence of its main speakers, who will then discuss the programme’s goals for the future.

The Topics

The discussion topics are directly related to the role and initiatives of the art museum today.

Among them are:

a. The limits, boundaries, interactions between the public and private cultural spheres;
b. The public museum today;
c. The role of the private initiative in shaping the contemporary cultural landscape;
d. The role of the audience in the contemporary museum;
e. The role of contemporary art in the revision of museum activities and policies;
f. Cultural policies directed to art museums and similar institutions;
g. Educational and cultural initiatives in museums;
h. The museum and its cross-disciplinary condition;
i. The art museum in the national museum system;
j. Urban museums versus local museums;
k. Museums and “spectacular” cultural events (among them the “Bienal de São Paulo”);
l. Networked art museums: integration, correspondences, interchanges;
m. The museum between material culture and new media virtual culture;
n. The art museum in the 21st century;
o. The museum and the city;
p. Museum architecture, among others;

First Activities

Permanent Forum started its programme in an experimental way in October 2003 with the presence of its first guest, Dr. Ulrich Krempel, director of the Sprengel Museum in Hannover, Germany. His arrival coincided with the visit of London Tate Gallery director, Sir Nicholas Serrota to São Paulo. On that occasion it was possible to organize three distinct events centred around the role of the art museum today. The first consisted of a round-table - The Museum of the 21st Century - that took place at the OCA pavilion in Ibirapuera Park, as a parallel activity to the group show A Bigger Splash: Tate’s British Art, 1960  [1] .

The round table had the participation of Tate Gallery director Nicholas Serrota, Hannover Sprengel Museum director, Ulrich Krempel, Recife Museum of Modern Art director, Moacir dos Anjos, and Martin Grossmann as mediator.

Serrota talked about the main achievements of the cultural policies he has been implementing since the late eighties, such as the physical expansion of the museum <>. During its first phase, still in the eighties, two branches were built in British soil but away from the Capital: one in St. Ives and one in Liverpool. However, what really caught the attention of the media and of the cultural community all over the world was the massive conversion of a former Bankside power plant by River Thames which opened to the public on May 2000: the Tate Modern. Paradoxically, however, Serrota argued that the Tate's model of cultural ‘spectacularization’, that competes side-by-side with the Guggenheim’s polemic cultural-commercial franchising program, should not be overrated. An antidote to this trend, he suggests, would be the ‘relativization’ and regionalization of museological policies. This statement endorsed Moacir dos Anjos’ speech, who tried to show how the cultural policies driven to great events and art exhibitions, which have dominated the national and international cultural scenario in the past years, undermine the process of consolidation of local museums, as is the case of the MAMAM in Recife <>. On his turn, Krempel also emphasized the importance and the role that medium and small sized art museums have in shaping cultural contexts in places that do not integrate the European cultural and tourist-driven circuit, as is the case of  Hannover, a medium-sized town in North Germany. The Hannover Sprengel Museum is an exemplary case in that sense <>. The museum has a representative collection of European and American modern and contemporary art, and develops activities directed to local and neighbouring communities, making it a point of reference in the region.

Following the model proposed by Permanent Forum, Ulrich Krempel leaded two other activities in October 2003: a lecture and a workshop. The lecture, “The Constitution Of A Collection As A Political Act”, was delivered in October 15 at the Goethe Institute in São Paulo. It focused on the “saga” of the Sprengel's modern art collection, which was donated to the city of Hannover in 1969 and led to the construction of the museum, opened in 1979. The Sprengels started collecting art at the height of the mid-war period in Germany, a time of extreme adversity for modern art, and acquired works by artists linked mainly to German Expressionism. Krempel explored the importance of this act, not only to the establishment of the museum, but also for the development and modernisation of cultural policies. Marcelo Araújo, director of the São Paulo's Pinacoteca (see note 2), invited to act as respondent, highlighted the oddness of this “saga” and its historical significance. The workshop, held at the Pinacoteca, provided the participants with detailed information on the museum’s operations, infrastructure and cultural initiatives. Motivated by the guest’s generosity and informality, the public – mainly formed by professionals tied to cultural institutions – felt comfortable to ask about several of the museum’s day-to-day aspects. This exchange proved to be very fruitful and shall be further explored in future editions of the Forum.

[1] Exhibition organized by the British Council , Tate Gallery and BrasilConnects

Martin Grossmann
São Paulo, 04.06.2004

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