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The Now Museum: Contemporary Art, Curating Histories, Alternative Models

New Museum, New York, March 2011

The Now Museum


What do museums of contemporary art stand for today? The last two decades has seen an unimaginable diversification of the museum as a place for exhibiting art and telling histories, producing innovative education models, promoting international collaborations, forming alternative archives, and facilitating new productions.

This conference aims to tackle key questions around the museum as an institutional entity and contemporary art as an art historical category. Speakers will provide an overview of developments across the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Particular attention will be paid to the construction of historical narratives (or their abandonment) through collection displays, the role of research in relation to contemporary art, the alternative models that are already having an impact, and their relationship to more traditional museum infrastructures.

Presented by the Ph.D. Program in Art History at the CUNY Graduate Center, Independent Curators International, and the New Museum.



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Thursday, March 10 | 7–9 p.m. | New Museum

7:15 p.m. "Exhibition Machines"

A conversation with artist Paul Chan and Philippe Vergne, Director, Dia Art Foundation, New York.

Philippe Vergne has served as Director of the Dia Art Foundation in New York since 2008, following his tenure as Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where he inaugurated over twenty-five international exhibitions. He was co-curator with Chrissie Iles of the 2006 Whitney Biennial. In 2008 he organized "Kara Walker: My Compliment, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love," which was awarded the "best monograph museum show nationally" by the International Association of Art Critics. Vergne's "Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers" traveled from the Hirshhorn Museum to the Walker Art Center in 2010–11.

Paul Chan is an artist who lives and works in New York. Recent solo exhibitions include the New Museum, New York; Serpentine Gallery, London; the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia; and Portikus, Frankfurt. Chan's single channel videos have been screened in film festivals worldwide, including the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. In November 2007, he collaborated with Creative Time and the Classical Theatre of Harlem to stage free site-specific performances of Samuel Beckett's play, Waiting for Godot in New Orleans.


Friday, March 11 | 10 a.m.–6 p.m. | CUNY Graduate Center

10:15 a.m. "Revisiting The Late Capitalist Museum"

In 1990, Rosalind Krauss published her seminal essay on museums of contemporary art, arguing that the increased scale of museum architecture led the viewer's attention to focus on a sublime experience of space itself, rather than to the works of art displayed within it. To what extent have Krauss's arguments been fulfilled in the last twenty years? And have compelling alternatives to her diagnosis arisen in its wake?

A panel discussion with Bruce Altshuler, Director, Program in Museum Studies, New York University; Manuel Borja-Villel, Director, Museo Nacional Reina Sofia, Madrid; and Beatriz Colomina, Professor, Department of Architecture, Princeton University.
Chaired by Johanna Burton, Director, Bard Center for Curatorial Studies.

Bruce Altshuler is Director of the Museum Studies program at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at New York University. He is the author of The Avant-Garde in Exhibition: New Art in the 20th Century (1994), and Isamu Noguchi (1994); editor of Collecting the New: Museums and Contemporary Art (2005); and co-editor of Isamu Noguchi: Essays and Conversations (1994). In 2010, Altshuler was awarded the Dedalus Foundation Senior Fellowship to support research on Volume 2 of his book Salon to Biennial: Exhibitions that Made Art History (Phaidon Press). The first volume, covering 1863–1959, was identified as one of the outstanding art books of 2008 by the art critics of the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sunday Times (London), and the Economist.

Manuel Borja-Villel has been the Director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía since January 2008, where he has led the reorganization of the permanent collection. From 1998–2008, Borja-Villel was director of the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA). Among the exhibitions he programmed at the MACBA were shows dedicated to Vito Acconci, El Lissitzky, Öyvind Fahlström, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Robert Frank, David Goldblatt, Luís Gordillo, Raymond Hains, Richard Hamilton, William Kentridge, Perejaume, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Gerhard Richter, Martha Rosler, and Antoni Tàpies, among others. Borja-Villel was also a member of the Consulting Committee of Documenta 12 (2007), and the chair of the jury for the 52nd Venice Biennial (2007).

Beatriz Colomina is an architectural historian and theorist who has written extensively on questions of architecture and media. Her books include Privacy and Publicity: Modern Architecture as Mass Media (1994), which was awarded the 1995 International Book Award by the American Institute of Architects; Sexuality and Space (1992), which was awarded the 1993 International Book Award by the American Institute of Architects; and Architectureproduction (1988). Colomina is Professor of Architecture and Founding Director of the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University.

Johanna Burton is the Director of The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College Masters program. Prior to holding this position, she was Associate Director and Senior Faculty Member at the Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program. Her writing has appeared in publications including Artforum, October, and Texte Zur Kunst.

Video-record: Claire Bishop and Bruce Altshuler [VÍDEO] - Manuel Borja-Villel [VÍDEO] - Beatriz Colomina - [VÍDEO] - Debate [VÍDEO] - (Windows Media Player) - Plugin Mac ou Firefox / Chrome


12 p.m. "Sources of the Contemporary Museum"

When did the sources of curatorial activity that we consider to be "contemporary" emerge, and where?

A conversation with Carlos Basualdo, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Curator at MAXXI, Rome, and Pamela M. Lee, Professor, Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University.

Carlos Basualdo is the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs Curator of Contemporary Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Curator at MAXXI, Rome. He was the lead organizer of "Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens," which represented the United States at the 2007 Venice Biennale, where it was awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. He was formerly Chief Curator of Exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts (2000–02), and has written extensively for scholarly journals and arts publications.

Pamela M. Lee is an art historian who specialises in the art, theory, and criticism of late modernism with a historical focus on the 1960s and 1970s. A recipient of a postdoctoral fellowship from the Getty Institute, Lee's publications include Object to Be Destroyed: The Work of Gordon Matta-Clark (2000), Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s (2004), and most recently Art History Since the Sixties: Theories of Modernism and Postmodernism in the Visual Arts (2011). She is Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Stanford University.

Video-record: Pamela Lee and Carlos Basualdo [VÍDEO] - (Windows Media Player) - Plugin Mac ou Firefox / Chrome


2:30 p.m. "The Artist's Perspective"

A conversation with artist Dara Birnbaum and Ute Meta Bauer, Associate Professor and Director, Visual Arts Program, MIT.

Dara Birnbaum is an artist who lives and works in New York. A retrospective exhibition of her work was organized by S.M.A.K. Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Gent, Belgium in 2009 and then traveled to Museu Serralves, Porto, Portugal in 2010. In conjunction with the retrospective, a major monograph on Birnbaum's work, The Dark Matter of Media Light, was published. Her work has been exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Reina Sofia, Madrid; MACBA, Barcelona; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Modern Museet, Stockholm, Sweden; The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, amongst others. This year, Birnbaum was awarded a Creative Artist Residency at the Bellagio Center of the Rockefeller Foundation.

Ute Meta Bauer is Associate Professor and Director of the Visual Arts Program at MIT. Raised in Germany and educated in visual communication and stage design, she has curated exhibitions on contemporary art, film, and video, focusing on transdisciplinary formats. She is a founding editor/publisher of the art periodicals META 1—4 (1992–94), case (2001–02), and Verksted #1–6 (2003–06).

Video-record: Ute Meta Bauer and Dara Birnbaum [VÍDEO] - (Windows Media Player) - Plugin Mac ou Firefox / Chrome


3:40 p.m. "Contemporanizing History/Historicizing the Contemporary"

Recent attempts to define contemporary art (and contemporaneity) as an era distinct from the modern and the postmodern have all revolved around the question of our relationship to history. How do we periodize the contemporary? Does the distinction between modern and contemporary art hold up in a global context? How has a changed relationship to history, and an awareness of art's new geographies, been made apparent in recent museum practice?

A panel discussion with Okwui Enwezor, Director, Haus der Kunst, Munich; Annie Fletcher, Curator, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven; Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions, New Museum; and Terry Smith, Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory, University of Pittsburgh.
Chaired by Claire Bishop, Associate Professor of Art History, CUNY Graduate Center.

Okwui Enwezor is the newly appointed director of the Haus der Kunst, Munich. His work is engaged in postcolonial studies and African contemporary art and their relationships to acts of political resistance. Enwezor has written for many publications, including Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, of which he is a founding editor. He has served on numerous advisory boards, juries, and curatorial teams, and is the current Artistic Director of Meeting Points 6. Enwezor has served artistic director of the 2nd Johannesburg Biennial (1998), Documenta 11 (2002), the Bienial Internacional de Arte Contemporaneo de Sevilla (2006), and the 7th Gwangju Biennial (2008). He was Dean of Academic Affairs at San Francisco Art Institute (2005–09).

Massimiliano Gioni is the Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions of the New Museum in New York and the Artistic Director of the Nicola Trussardi Foundation in Milan. He recently curated "10.000 Lives," the 8th Gwangju Biennial. At the New Museum, Gioni has curated the solo exhibitions of Paul Chan, Urs Fischer, and Lynda Benglis. He was also one of the curators of "The Generational: Younger Than Jesus," the first New Museum Triennial. And in 2008 he curated the group show "After Nature." In 2006 Gioni curated the 4th Berlin Biennale with Maurizio Cattelan and Ali Subotnick, and co-curated Manifesta 5 in 2004 in San Sebastian (Spain). At the Trussardi Foundation he has organized various solo shows and public art projects with, among others, Paweł Althamer, Tacita Dean, Fischli and Weiss, Paul McCarthy, Paola Pivi, Anri Sala, and Tino Sehgal.

Terry Smith is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh. His major research interests include global contemporary art; the histories of multiple modernities and modernisms; the history and theory of contemporaneity; and the historiography of art history and art criticism. Among Smith's most recent publications is What is Contemporary Art? (2009), a book that examines and categorizes multiple definitions of the contemporary in art.

Annie Fletcher is curator of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and a freelance curator and critic. She co-curated their exhibition "Be(com)ing Dutch in the age of Global Democracy" (2006) and "If I Can't Dance I Don't Want to be Part of Your Revolution" (2005). From 2005–06, she managed the Curatorial Training Programme at De Appel in Amsterdam. Fletcher's work lends insight into the potentials of curatorial practice and loaded meanings behind art mediation and presentation. At the Van Abbemuseum, she is an active partner the Museum as Hub intiative wtih art space pool, Museo Tamayo, Museo Experimental El Eco, the New Museum, and the Townhouse Gallery.

Claire Bishop is Associate Professor of Art History, at the CUNY Graduate Center and a scholar of contemporary art. Her dissertation was published as Installation Art: A Critical History, and she has also published an edited volume, Participation. She is the author of the essays "Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics" (October, 2004) and "The Social Turn: Collaboration and its Discontents" (Artforum, 2006).

6:00 - 7:00 p.m. [Elebash Auditorium foyer and James Gallery] book launch: Forum Permanente´s book series in partnership with Hedra, a publishing house based in São Paulo - Brazil. The first three bilingual books were granted an award by the Brazil Contemporary Art Program, an initiative of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture and the São Paulo Biennial Foundation. Based on the rich collection of discursive material held in the Forum Permanente´s site, the collection is presented through compilations organised by theme, publications of critical reports on the events recorded online and books promoting the debate around the institutionalisation of art, both locally and globally. The three first books are: 'Museum Art Today'; 'Critical Reports: 27th São Paulo Biennial Seminars' and 'Modes of Representation of the São Paulo Biennial: The passage from artistic internationalism to cultural globalisation'.

Video-record: Terry Smith [VÍDEO] - Okwui Enwezor [VÍDEO] - Massimiliano Gioni [VÍDEO] - Annie Fletcher, [VÍDEO] - Debate  [VÍDEO] - (Windows Media Player) - Plugin Mac ou Firefox / Chrome


Saturday, March 12 | 12–6 p.m. | New Museum

12:15 p.m. "Extending Infrastructures, Part I: Platforms & Networks"

The last decade has seen the evolution of new models for institutions that enable the development of new networks and collaborations between artists, curators, and organizations regionally and internationally. These models have established platforms from which to generate programming and accumulate research that goes beyond the national or localized mandates of the traditional contemporary art museum, and instead encourages the accumulation of knowledge and projects through shared concerns based on experience and practice. This has led to new ways of thinking about collecting, recording histories, and producing discourse, as well as extending exhibition models and the involvement of artists in the creation of institutional structures. What are the key issues and practices that have generated these new frameworks?

A panel discussion with Zdenka Badovinac, Director, Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana; Anthony Huberman, Distinguished Lecturer, Hunter College and Director, The Artist's Institute, New York; Maria Lind, Director, Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm; and Lu Jie, Director and Chief Curator, Long March Project, Beijing.
Chaired by Kate Fowle, Director, Independent Curators International, New York.

Zdenka Badovinac is a curator and art critic who has served as Director to the Moderna Galerija (Museum of Modern Art) in Ljubljana since 1993. In her work, she highlights the difficult processes of redefining history alongside different avant-garde traditions within contemporary art. Badovinac's first exhibition to address these issues was Body and the East—From the 1960s to the Present (1998). She also initiated the first Eastern European art collection, Arteast Collection 2000+.

Anthony Huberman is a curator and writer based in New York, where he is currently Director of The Artist's Institute and a Distinguished Lecturer at Hunter College. Previously, he worked as Chief Curator of the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Curator of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, Curator of SculptureCenter in New York, and has organized a wide variety of independent projects around the world. He also was Director of Education and Public Programs at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, where he initiated WPS1, the museum's radio station. He has written for magazines such as Artforum, Afterall, Dot Dot Dot, Mousse, and Bomb, among others, as well as exhibition catalogues. With Larissa Harris, he co-directs The Steins, a series of occasional exhibitions and events.

Maria Lind is Director of the Tensta Konsthall and an independent curator and writer interested in exploring the formats and methodologies connected with the contemporary art institution. She was the director of the graduate program at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College from 2008–10. Before that, she was director of lASPIS in Stockholm (2005–07) and Director of the Munich Kunstverein (2002–04). Previous to that she was curator at Moderna Museet in Stockholm (from 1997–2001) and in 1998 was co-curator of Manifesta 2, Europe's nomadic biennial of contemporary art. Lind was the 2009 recipient of the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement. A compendium of her essays to date, Selected Maria Lind Writing, was published by Sternberg Press in 2010.

Lu Jie is Director and Chief Curator of Long March Project and Founder of Long March Space in Beijing. Long March Project is a complex, multi-platform, and ongoing research-led art project based in Beijing. Widely exhibited internationally during its nine-year foundation, the latest endeavor of Long March Project was Ho Chi Minh Trail (2008–10), a major project for "Rehearsal," the 8th Shanghai Biennial. Lu Jie is on the Editorial Board of the Yishu – Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art and advisor to the Asia Art Archive. He has lectured in numerous museums and academic institutions and is an adjunct professor at the China Academy of Art, Hang Zhou.

Kate Fowle is Director of Independent Curators International (ICI) in New York. From 2007–08 she was the inaugural International Curator for the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, and from 2002–07 the Chair of the MA Program in Curatorial Practice at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, a program she established with Ralph Rugoff in 2002. In 2005 she co-founded the backroom, an itinerant research-oriented project that provides access to over seventy international artists' source materials. Born and trained in England, Fowle was the curator at the Towner Art Gallery in Eastbourne before co-founding smith + fowle in 1996, a curatorial partnership based in London that developed exhibitions and commissions with over fifty international artists across the U.K.

Video-record: Opening [VÍDEO] - Zdenka Badovinac [VÍDEO] - Lu Jie [VÍDEO] - Antony Huberman [VÍDEO] - Maria Lind [VÍDEO] - Debate [VÍDEO] - (Windows Media Player) - Plugin Mac ou Firefox / Chrome

2:30 p.m. "Extending Infrastructures, Part II: Bricks & Mortar"

Following up on the day's earlier panel, how are the tangible, physical manifestations necessary for the development of contemporary art infrastructures conceptualized for a specific region, emphasis, or audience? What is necessary to participate meaningfully in international and local contexts? Panelists will discuss the development of contemporary art infrastructures today including the birth of new museums, the relevance of the model, the future of patronage, and challenges.

A panel discussion with Richard Armstrong, Director, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; curator and artist Gabi Ngcobo, Johannesburg; and Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, Director, Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, New York and Caracas.
Chaired by Eungie Joo, Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs, New Museum.

Richard Armstrong is the Director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. While managing this foundation, he oversees the Guggenheim Museum in New York as well as their worldwide affiliations, such as the Peggy Guggenheim collection in Venice, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, the Deutsche Guggenheim, and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum, scheduled to open in early 2013. Prior to this position, Armstrong was the Henry J. Heinz II director of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, where he had also served as Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art.

Gabi Ngcobo is a curator and artist based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She has worked as assistant curator at the South African National Gallery in Cape Town and as Head of Research for Cape Africa Platform. She was a founding member of the Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA). In 2010 she co-curated "rope-a-dope: to win a losing war" at Cabinet in New York. Ngcobo is the head of the "Incubator for a pan-African Biennale task-force," a yearlong project arranged to facilitate the articulation of critical positions regarding the notion of a Pan-African Biennial. In 2010 she founded the Center for Historical Reenactments in Johannesburg.

Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro is an international curator, interested in the relation of art within the Americas. He is Director of the Colleción Patricia Phelps de Cisneros in New York and Caracas. He has been Curator of Latin American art at the Blanton Museum of Art, the University of Texas at Austin; Director of Visual Arts at The Americas Society in New York; and founding curator of the University of Essex Collection of Latin American Art in England. He was also chief curator of the 6th Mercosur Biennial in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Eungie Joo is Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs at the New Museum in New York, where she spearheads the Museum as Hub initiative. Before joining the New Museum, Joo was the founding director and curator of the Gallery at REDCAT in Los Angeles (2003–07). Joo was the Commissioner for the Korean Pavilion at the 53rd International Venice Biennale in 2009 and is organizing the forthcoming 2012 New Museum Triennial. Joo was a recipient of the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement in 2006.

Video-record: Eungie Joo and Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro [VÍDEO] - Gabi Ngcobo [VÍDEO] - Richard Armstrong - [VÍDEO] - Debate [VÍDEO] - (Windows Media Player) - Plugin Mac ou Firefox / Chrome

4:45 p.m. "What does the museum stand for now?"

Responses by Katy Siegel, Professor, Department of Art, Hunter College and Dominic Willsdon, Curator of Education and Public Programs, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Katy Siegel is a contemporary art critic and writer. She is an Assistant Professor of art history at Hunter College, CUNY, and a contributing editor to Artforum. She is co-author of Money, forthcoming from Thames & Hudson, as well as an edited volume of the critic Sidney Tillim's writings, forthcoming from Routledge. Siegel is the author of numerous articles and catalogue essays on contemporary art, most recently on Bernard Frize, Jean-Marc Bustamante, and the Public Art Fund in New York.

Dominic Willsdon is the Curator of Education and Public Programs at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Until 2005 he was curator of public events at Tate Modern, London, senior tutor in critical theory for the graduate program in curating contemporary art at the Royal College of Art in London, and a member of the core faculty of the London Consortium. Willsdon has been a researcher in philosophy at the Universities of Essex and Paris. He is the author of essays on art, philosophy, photography, and music, as well as a contributing editor to the forthcoming The Life and Death of Images: Ethics and Aesthetics and an editor of the Journal of Visual Culture.

Video-record:  Dominic Willsdon and Katy Siegel [VÍDEO] - (Windows Media Player) - Plugin Mac ou Firefox / Chrome

Sunday, March 13 | 2–6 p.m. | New Museum

2 p.m. "Graduate Students Respond"

A graduate student symposium co-chaired by Claire Bishop, Kate Fowle, and Martin Grossmann, Professor, School of Art and Communications, University of São Paulo.

Panel 1: "Museums and Collections"
Kari Cwynar, Banff Center: "The Museum as a Contact Zone: New Ways of Seeing Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario"
Alice Heeren, School of the Art Institute of Chicago: "The Inhotim Institute: Articulating Local and Global in Display Strategies in Brazil"
Saisha Grayson, CUNY Graduate Center: "What makes a museum contemporary? MACBA and the Van Abbe Museum"

Video-record: Kari Cwynar [VÍDEO] -  Alice Heeren [VÍDEO] -  Saisha Grayson [VÍDEO] - (Windows Media Player) - Plugin Mac ou Firefox / Chrome


Panel 2: "Artists and Museums"
Jessica Gogan, University of Pittsburgh: "Hélio Oiticica's Experimental and Constructive Legacy for Contemporary Museums"
Michelle Jubin, CUNY Graduate Center: "Artist-Educators and Education-as-art in New York"
Natalie Musteata, CUNY Graduate Center: "Collection as Medium: Why do museums invite artists to re-hang collections?"

Video-record: Jessica Gogan [VÍDEO] -  Michelle Jubin [VÍDEO] -  Natalie Musteata [VÍDEO] - Debate, Martin Grossmann [VÍDEO] - (Windows Media Player) - Plugin Mac ou Firefox / Chrome