MoCA of the Month
MoCA of the Month New Series
We would like to announce that the GAM website is launching a new MoCA of the Month series, beginning with December 2010. The decision to widen the series reflects the need of rethinking the museum in the contemporary era. The role and the identity of the museums are rapidly changing, especially in non Euro-American countries. This aspect mostly concerns the presence of a collection but also functions and destinations. In the last months we had already started to cross narrow boundaries by juxtaposing museums with foundations and alternative spaces, which do not enter the traditional museum category. But now it is our aim to regularly present those institutions, which do not follow museums features, without nevertheless excluding examples of proper contemporary art museums. With the new MoCa of the Month series we would therefore like to map and provide an overview of emerging and alternative spaces dedicated to the creation, production, and exhibition of contemporary art.
MSU- Muzej Suvremene Umjetnosti Zagreb
Muzej Suvremene Umjetnosti Zagreb |Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb| was established on 21 December 1954, when the National Council of the City of Zagreb issued a decree on founding the Municipal Gallery of Contemporary Art.
The mission of the museum is researching, documenting, and promoting events, styles, and phenomena in contemporary art. Museum of Contemporary Art is the present-day name for Zagreb Municipal Galleries, which formerly consisted of Contemporary Art Gallery, Centre for Photography, Film, and Television, Benko Horvat Collection, Library, and Documentation Department. Prior to its separation, the institution also included Atelier Meštrović (today’s Meštrović Foundation), Primitive Art Gallery (Croatian Museum of Naive Art), and “Jozo Kljaković” Collection (now managed by Centre for Visual Art Education). Since the very beginnings, the museum’s goal has been to assemble a relevant collection and to operate in accordance with modern principles of museology. Only ten years after its foundation, it was invited by the 32nd Venice Biennale to present a selection from its collections in the exhibition “Arte d’oggi nei musei” (“Today’s Art in Museums”), together with seventeen top world museums. In 1966, at the “2ème Salon International des Galeries Pilotes” in Lausanne, it was in the company of fifteen most famous galleries from Europe, USA, and Japan.
History and Architecture
At the time of its outset, the MSU was located in Kulmer Palace in Zagreb’s historical centre. Because of the modest housing conditions, the Museum had never exhibited its permanent collection in entirety. After many years of effort invested in moving the Museum to a more adequate space, the decision on constructing a new building was issued in 1998.
Exhibition view at MSU in 1957. © 2010 MSU Zagreb
The new location was set in Novi Zagreb, at the crossroads of Većeslav Holjevac and Dubrovnik Avenues. In summer 1999, Croatian Ministry of Culture and Zagreb City Council launched a national architectural competition, supervised by the Zagreb Architects Association, which selected a design by architect Igor Franić from among 85 candidates. The construction works officially began on 17 November 2003 and the new building opened on December 11th 2010 with several art installations, music and performances.
Sketch of the new museum © 2010 MSU Zagreb
Referring to the tradition of functionalist architecture, Igor Franić planned a building that would stand on a major traffic route which is an important link between Zagreb’s historical centre and its new districts across the Sava River. The partitioned geometrical volume of the five-storey building, characterized by a changing cross-section reminiscent of a meander, is meant to become a recognizable symbol of the city in the future.
The northern side of the building, overlooking the city park, is intended to host open-air exhibitions. The ground level is entirely dedicated to various facilities for visitors, including rooms for workshops in the visual arts, a library with a reading room, a smaller exhibition room, a multimedia auditorium, a museum shop, and a restaurant. The exhibition rooms are located on three levels, and their variety promotes a flexible relationship between the permanent collection and the rooms for temporary exhibitions, offering various possibilities for realizing even the most demanding exhibition projects. With a total surface of 14500 m2, the new museum building will ensure not only adequate storage and the exhibition of its collection, but also a great variety of programmes that will take place on a daily basis, including workshops in the visual arts, film projections, theatre performances, and concerts.
Urban Interventations & Under ConstructionThrough the years preceding the new opening, the MSU realized several projects that were directly concerned with the new locality of the Museum, its new building, and its immediate surroundings. The series began with a project entitled Urban Interventions and will be continued even after the inauguration.
Urban Interventation © 2010 MSU Zagreb
The Urban Interventions project covered the gradual moving of the Museum from the Upper Town to the building site on the banks of River Sava. Simultaneously, with the beginning of the construction works, photographer Jasenko Rasol was invited to document the entire process thorugh a photographic project entitled Under Construction.
Under Construction © 2010 MSU Zagreb
In Autumn 2007, a project of the same name was organized in the future neighbourhood of MSU, on the crossroads of Većeslava Holjevca and Dubrovnik Avenues, in Mamutica, one of the symbolic residential buildings of New Zagreb, as well as on Bundek Lake and in the recently opened Avenue Mall. The presentations, exhibitions, video projections, and events, which lasted for several days, featured Tonka Maleković, Lina Kovačević, Damir Očko, Filjo & Pas, and Woo Collective.
© 2010 MSU Zagreb
The specialized departments of the Museum include the Audio-Visual Department, the Department of Experimental Research, Documentation and Information, the Library, the Education Department, the Performance and Exhibitions Department, the Restoration Department, Public Relations, and Marketing.
The Audio-Visual Department was established in 1997 as a multifunctional department at MSU. Its task is to produce, document, and preserve audio-visual material from the field of visual arts, as well as to collect, process, and present audio-visual documentation linked to the activity of individuals, groups, and institutions that have been active in the field of contemporary art in Croatia and abroad. In 2002, the Audio-Visual Department launched the production of film biographies dedicated to distinguished Croatian visual artists and art groups. Three films have been produced so far: “Exat 51 i konstruktivističke tendencije u hrvatskoj umjetnosti” (Exat 51 and Constructivist Tendencies in Croatian Art), “Vjenceslav Richter”, and “Jakov Bratanić”.
© 2010 MSU Zagreb
Department of Experimental Research
The Department is involved in various forms of creative research in the field of contemporary art and of new or experimental forms of artistic, exhibition-related, or curating practice. Its task is also to promote a dialogue amongst various creative disciplines, and to contribute with its research to the development of those segments of contemporary art that are open to new and unknown areas, where art, science, and technology are often found to overlap. The Department encourages experimentation as a method of developing various curating procedures, as well as cooperation among curators, theoreticians, and artists on joint projects.
Pilot 04; Studio MSU 2003/04; © 2010 MSU Zagreb
This form of activity is realized through various innovative projects, exhibitions, events, publications, and presentations. The first beginnings of this strategy can be traced to the Museum’s activity in the 1960s, when it launched several exhibition projects under the title of New Tendencies, as well as in BIT International, a journal that promoted a dialogue between artists on the one side and media theoreticians, aestheticians, and scientists on the other. The initiative resulted in a number of exhibitions and publications on the new media, cybernetics, and digital art, which were among the first of their sort in the world. In 2003, the Department’s activity was intensified through the Pilot04 project, featuring cooperation among several independent curators in the premises of Studio MSU (project room), in which artistic events followed hard upon each other with a rapid daily or weekly rhythm. The diversity of the programme was manifested in a variety of artistic disciplines, procedures, strategies, and forms of presentation, comprising around 40 exhibition programmes, events, performances, lectures, and workshops, with the participation of more than 50 artists.
Documentation and Information
The Museum of Contemporary Art houses the most exhaustive documentation on contemporary art in Croatia. Apart from the materials linked to events within MSU or organized by it, Documentation Department also collects, processes, and presents the textual and audio-visual documents that are relevant for the activity of individuals, groups, and institutions in the field of contemporary art, both in Croatia and abroad. These materials are classified into several units: a scholarly archive of visual arts, a collection of newspaper clippings, a photographic collection, a video collection, and an audio collection.
© 2010 MSU Zagreb
The materials linked to the New Tendencies movement (1961-1973) include not only printed matter and photo-documentation, but also extensive correspondence with artists and gallery owners, making them one of the principal sources in investigating the history of that international artistic movement. A particular gem is the section on computer art, which evolved simultaneously with the exhibitions and the publication of BIT International and is today one of the most complete of all archives of early computer art. There are also sections that came into existence while preparing large synthetic or thematic exhibitions, such as the archive of conceptual art, which evolved with the exhibitions on New Art Practice (Nova umjetnička praksa or NUP) (1978), on Innovations in Croatian Art in1970s (1982), on historical avant-gardes and Avant-Garde Tendencies in Croatian Modern Art 1919-1941 (1982), or Flashes of Avant-Garde in the Croatian Art of the First Half of the 20th Century (2007). Along with the exhibition and publication activity of MSU, there are other thematic units, such as the archive of photography, video, and media art, linked to the journal Spot (1972-1978) and the activity of the proto-conceptualist group Gorgona (1977,1989, and 1997). The materials are currently being documented, digitalized, and classified in computerized catalogues in order to facilitate the work of archivists and also to make them more accessible to external users.
The Museum’s library was established shortly after the foundation of MSU in 1954 and today is among the richest Croatian libraries in the field of modern and contemporary art. Its holdings have been growing parallel to the Museum’s and a large part of the literature on the artists or phenomena from its collections is to be found in the library. Its holdings are classified into several sections: scholarly journals, exhibition catalogues on contemporary art in Croatia and from various world museums, theoretical literature, literature from the fields of architecture, photography, design, film, the new media, comic strips, music, and fashion, as well as some audio-visual materials.
Der Blaue Reiter / editors Kandinsky, Franz Marc. – München : Piper, 1912; © 2010 MSU Zagreb
The Museum’s library was established shortly after the foundation of MSU (then Contemporary Art Gallery) in 1954 and today is among the richest Croatian libraries in the field of modern and contemporary art. Its holdings have been growing parallel to the Museum’s and a large part of the literature on the artists or phenomena from its collections is to be found in the library. Its holdings are classified into several sections: scholarly journals, exhibition catalogues on contemporary art in Croatia and from various world museums, theoretical literature, literature from the fields of architecture, photography, design, film, the new media, comic strips, music, and fashion, as well as some audio-visual materials. The Museum’s library was established shortly after the foundation of MSU (then Contemporary Art Gallery) in 1954 and today is among the richest Croatian libraries in the field of modern and contemporary art. Its holdings have been growing parallel to the Museum’s and a large part of the literature on the artists or phenomena from its collections is to be found in the library. Its holdings are classified into several sections: scholarly journals, exhibition catalogues on contemporary art in Croatia and from various world museums, theoretical literature, literature from the fields of architecture, photography, design, film, the new media, comic strips, music, and fashion, as well as some audio-visual materials.
Eduaction is a collective term for the programmes of the Educational department at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Zagreb. This somewhat rumpled name is meant to emphasise action as an important part of learning in a museum. In eduaction numerous educative actions are organise and conduct: creative workshops and playrooms, encounters with artists, guided tours, short presentations, lectures, seminars, symposia, interactive and online projects. The eduaction programmes are meant for all visitors – from preschool children to visitors in the third age of life, to thosewho come into the museum for the first time in their life, to experts in the domain of the arts, to children who have come in the company of adults, parents, guardians and educators, as well as adults – programmes whichin no way count out children.
© 2010 MSU Zagreb
From My Angle
This is the name of a programme in which young assistants in the eduaction programme, in an informal way, take younger visitors around the exhibition Collection in Motion. From their own individual point of view, they select just a few works from the display that they like or don’t like, and talk about their own experience of these art works, trying to elicit reaction, debate or heated discussion from the younger visitors.
Each Saturday at 3 p.m., visitors can be taken around the Collection in Motion exhibition by an artist, critic or curator. They will choose topics that particularly intrigue them, opening up some particular issue in contemporary art.
Wishing to make the museum more accessible to visitors with disabilities, to provide access that will link up all visitors, the MSU has developed collaborative activities with several individuals and associations. Every first Thursday in the month, in collaboration with Dodir, the Croatian Association of the Deaf and Blind, the museum provides people with hearing problems with a guided tour with Croatian sign language. In collaboration with the Theatre of the Blind and the New Life Association of Zagreb, audio-guides in English and Croatian have been adapted to the needs of blind and visually impaired people.
Mobile Museum – Out-Reach
Through the Hit the Road program the museum tries to get to the public that cannot make it to the museum because of various circumstances in their lives: sickness, old age, poverty, ethnic discrimination and so on: “In this way we are going on with our programmes in which we want to combine creativity and solidarity, while our teams of artists, actors, musicians, dancers and museum educators travel outside the museum, wherever we want to contribute to a better understanding of others, with respect and tolerance. In short: we want to contribute to a feeling that we are necessary to each other, and that we are not alone.”
The programme is created by the young for the young and it is conceived as a forum for future art professionals in the field of fine arts, theatre, film, media, photography and design. It is a place at which they could get together and exchange information and ideas, create programmes, exhibitions, roundtables, seminars, host and present the work of fellow artists from abroad, or indeed make guest appearances abroad.
Conservation and Restoration Department
The Conservation and Restoration Department at MSU was founded in 1999. Its main tasks are the preventive protection, conservation and restoration of works of art, as well as research on various materials, techniques, and technologies applied in the making of MSU collections.
Performance and Exhibition Department
The Performance and Exhibition Department places an emphasis on three main elements in its activity: multimedia theatre, production and organization of exhibitions and related activities and publishing.
The collections of the museum include some twelve thousand contemporary artworks, created by Croatian and international artists between 1950 and the present day. A minor part of the permanent collection includes artworks created during the first half of the twentieth century, the presence of which is crucial for the understanding of modern and contemporary art. Particular collections speak of the beginnings and development of various artistic movements, as well as their direct and indirect impact on subsequent phenomena in art. The Museum includes the following collections: Drawings, Prints, Posters, and Works on Paper; Film and Video; Photography; Media Art; Sculpture and Painting. The collection of Croatian and international art documents dominant movements, tendencies and stylistic currents such as Abstract Expressionis, Geometrical and Lyrical Abstraction, Informel Painting, Minimalism, Proto-Conceptualism, Analytic and Primary Painting, Fluxus, Conceptual art, Monochrome Painting, Transavant-garde…thus reflecting the mission of the museum to monitor and cover novel tendencies in contemporary art.
Aleksić Dragan, Dada Tank No 1, 1922; © 2010 MSU Zagreb
The richness of expression corresponds to the variety of media represented in the MSU collections; apart from classic media – painting, sculpture, drawing, and graphics – the museum possesses a series of works on the verge of particular media and works that examine their essence, such as objects, ready-mades, experimental film and video, conceptual photography, photo-installations, installations, site-specific works, luminokinetic objects, multimedia installations etc. Among many important Croatian and international artists the collections of the museum include artworks by: Dennis Adams, Marina Abramović, Christian Boltanki, Anette Messager, Dalibor Martinis, Sanja Iveković, Mladen Stilinović, Tomislav Gotovac, Josip Vaništa, Dimitrije Bašićević Mangelos, Jan Fabre, Andres Serrano, Oleg Kulik, Katarzyna Kozyra, Deimantas Narkevicius, Goran Trbuljak, Kristina Leko, Željko Kipke, André Cadéré, Joseph Beuys, Sonia Delaunay, IRWIN, Jimmie Durham, On Kawara, Nam June Paik, Rot Dieter, Kurt Schwitters, Chen Zhen… Particular collections stand out for their specific and exhaustive treatment of their thematic and stylistic complexes, as well as for their international character such as the collection of Constructivist and Kinetic Art, whose basis are the works by the representatives of the international movement New Tendencies (Julije Knifer, Ivan Picelj, Aleksandar Srnec, Vjenceslav Richter, Miroslav Šutej, Almir Mavigner, Otto Piene, Victor Vasarey, Piero Dorazio, Piero Manzoni, Jesus Raphael Soto). The Museum also exhibits donations such as the complex and heterogeneous artistic collection of Benko Horvat, the harmonized Surrealist lifework of painter Josip Seissel (donated by Silvana Seissel), as well as the special collection of architect Vjenceslav Richter and his wife, Nada Kareš Richter, located at their family house on Vrhovec no. 38. In 2006, the Museum obtained the Tošo Dabac Archive, located in the former studio of that legendary Zagreb photographer at Ilica no. 17. The latest large and complete acquisition was that of the entire Kožarić Atelier.
Collection in Motion
Wishing to re-define the semantic potential of the term permanent display and make the Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art accessible at one single display point, in the new Museum building by the architect Igor Franić, Nada Beroš and Tihomir Milovac coined a new term: Collection in Motion. “With this term we tend to initiate and demonstrate the improvements in the presentation, communication, and interpretation of the artworks in our Collection. We also wish to emphasise the major characteristics of contemporary art: movement, change, transience, uncertainty… Therefore, the museological concept of the Collection in Motion is characterized by a flexible frame, constant readiness for change, and the possibility of re-arrangement, enhancement, or reduction of particular units. Collection in Motion truly has a transient character, equally in time and space, and on the physical and mental level, because certain units/groups and the works within them will be successively interchanged, added to, or reduced.”
In the first presentation the rich assortment of artworks of the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb has been introduced through a selection of six hundred pieces. The representative examples of the collection has been gropued into units according to the proximity of their ideas and the inner threads that interconnect these artworks regardless of the time and setting in which they were created. Based on the premise that every work of art is a statement by its author about art, society, the historical moment, religion, or politics – and that these artworks can be classified according to the different relationships they establish with the art world and the life world, the MSU staff has presented them in five large units – Project and Destiny, Art as Life, Art on Art, The Great Enigma of the World, and Words and Images – as well as sixteen corresponding sub-groups. These groups are named after significant titles of specific artworks from MSU collection, such as For the Democratization of Art, Panorama for the Left and Right Eye, Recipes of the Brain, Exercises of the Will and Body, and others, indicating not only their individual artistic strategies, but also changes in taste and the historical moment in which they were created.
Project and Destiny
IRWIN; Malevich between the Two wars, Was ist Kunst, 1984; © 2010 MSU Zagreb
According to the title of the famous modernist essay written by the Italian art theoretician Giulio Carlo Argan, this unit embraces groups of artists whose work was founded on a certain program, project, manifesto or anti-manifesto, public appearances or conscious detachment from the public. By equating their programs/projects with their personal destiny, these artists acted critically, often even subversively, in the cold-war climate of late modernism during the nineteen fifties and sixties. Some of them take the experiences of the historical avant-garde (Futurism, Russian avant-garde, Constructivism, Bauhaus, De Stijl, etc.) as their point of departure, advocating the need to connect art with certain forms of social activity, i.e., changing the social environment of art (EXAT 51 group), while others withdraw and consider giving up, simple associating, and other forms of passive behaviour to be forms of collective artistic expression (Gorgona group). In Croatia, these two art collectives, EXAT 51 (1951-1956) and Gorgona (1959-1966), as well as the individuals who constituted them, have directly, but also retroactively, strongly marked the art in this region of Europe.
Art as Life
The unit ART AS LIFE presents artists and art practices that primarily see the artwork as a social fact. Using different media of expression – from photography to video and film installation – the artists primarily speak about their social mission. This social mission is the subject of an entirely new aesthetics for which the French theoretician Nicolas Bourriaud has coined the term relational aesthetics. The art object has vanished, but human relations as the principal subject of artistic action have remained. A series of art practices from the end of the last century that advocates so-called micro-Utopias have opened new chapters in the art of the twenty-first century. Identifying art with a political or marketing campaign, social and charity work, election polls, etc. — these art practices have actually equated art with life itself. These practices, as well as the media used by artists (performance, action, agitation, happening), are characterized by one-time events, unrepeatability and impermanence. Therefore, the works of these artists can be represented in a museum only through a documentation which in the form of a museum installation re-acquires the meaning of the original.
Anette Messager, Woman and Drawing (La femme et le dessin) 1972; © 2010 MSU Zagreb
Art on Art
Much of artistic production in the twentieth century has emerged in direct dialogue with art, in interaction with its language and history. With it “we want to avoid the labelling of art as progressive or conservative, which also implies the notions of good and bad art. This term also does not require the museum visitors to know the scholarly terms for periods and movements from the history of modern and contemporary art. By its openness it also enables a less partial view of modernism, neo-modernism, and post-modernism, to which the artworks from this unit are mostly ascribed. The artists included in the unit ART ON ART put the aesthetic purpose of art – the language of art and the disclosure of their medium – into the foreground, but show overtly critical and analytical attitudes both towards the phenomenon of art and the phenomenon of life. ART ON ART is not necessarily confined to its artistic field, unattainable and detached in relation to other forms of human activity. However, unlike the artists from the unit ART AS LIFE, these artists do not question the boundaries that divide art and life or consider it necessary to overstep the borderlines of art and direct their critical potential towards changes in society.
Vjenceslav Richter, Relief-meter 1967 © 2010 MSU Zagreb
The Great Enigma of the World
The term individual mythologies –coined by Harald Szeemann at Documenta 5– points to the fact that the mythologies of the twentieth century are no longer based on the beliefs of an entire community, but express the obsessions of the individual. This obsession, devotion to a particular idea, and clear striving to express his or her vision through an artistic act, contributed to the creation of some of the most amazing contemporary artworks, of which some are part of the MSU Collection. Amazed at the great enigma of the world, these artists create works and oeuvres based on the complex system of symbols, which above all correspond to highly profiled personal logic, in this way creating a new enigma for whose decoding it is necessary to know the broader context in which a particular work was made.
Oleg Kulik, My Family. My Father; My Mother; My Sister; My Wife; My Son and Daughter-in-Law; My Nephews, Me; 1998 © 2010 MSU Zagreb
Often the artists themselves leave a certain key for interpretation (or additional mystification) in their theoretical texts, statements, and manifestos. These artists could even appeared marginal to society and its expectations, but also to dominant art paradigms, “which is why the works by so-called marginal authors or outsiders belong to this unit as well. It is important to mention here that this marginal, often renegade position was chosen or deliberately created by the artists themselves (Vladimir Dodig Trokut, Oleg Kulik, Antun Motika, Stjepan Bukovina…).”
Words and Images
The relation of the image and the word has never been symmetrical throughout the history of mankind, but the contest between the language and the visual representation, the word and the image, was especially intensified in the twentieth century. Conceptual art, along the lines of Marcel Duchamp, no longer seeks the experience of art in the eye, but on the mental path from the retina to the mind (therefore, they sometimes call it “art in the mind”). The image is now criticism and subversion, analysis and interpretation, anything but an innocent notion or a “comfortable armchair for the eyes”, as Matisse would call it. Conceptual art, wittily termed a nervous breakdown of modernism, was at the beginning considered highly elitist, intellectual art by its very protagonists. It was primarily concerned with a dispute with its predecessor, late modernism, so that its early phase (1962 – 1971) could tentatively be observed also within the unit ART ON ART.
Željko Jerman, My Year January 1st – December 31st, 1977; 1977 © 2010 MSU Zagreb
Early conceptual art could also be viewed as the bureaucratization of artistic activity concerned with art for art’s sake (Miško Šuvaković), because the artists invent and depict their results through analytical-critical tables, pools, polls, etc. However, in so-called post-conceptual art, its protagonists intensively investigate social problematics. That is where the complex interrelation between the two traditions – pop-artist and conceptualist – comes about, so that it is possible to present post-conceptual works within the framework of the already existing unit ART AS LIFE. However, the collection curators decided to open a new unit, entitled WORDS AND IMAGES, in order to point out the specific differences between these works and the ones from the units ART ON ART and ART AS LIFE.
Information compiled from press material provided by the institution and from the MSU website. All quotations come from the MSU website.
MSU–Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb
Av. Dubrovnik 17, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Phone: +385 1 60 52 700
Fax: +385 1 60 52 798