Ten years aren’t many for a museum, but in our accelerated contemporaneity that consumes history in truly real time, they can mean something.
From 2004, the year it opened to the public, to 2014, the Museum of Contemporary Photography – Italy’s only publically funded museum devoted entirely to this subject – has been engaged in the huge task of enlarging its archive of 1 million photographs (11 collections) and 10 thousand books to 2 million photos (31 collections) and 20 thousand volumes in its library; it has held more than 60 exhibitions at its Villa Ghirlanda premises and other sites; it has commissioned 15 projects involving contemporary artists and cultural mediation; it has published more than 30 books and DVDs and organized more than 40 conferences and seminars.
But the progress of its work shouldn’t be measured solely in quantitative terms but rather in those of purpose and plans.
If, from the typically institutional viewpoint, the Museum of Contemporary Photography has worked to increase its collections of photographs and books, thus strengthening its real foundations, at the same time it has always pondered the three ideas contained in its name: museum, photography, contemporary. And so it has worked on the contemporaneity of photography and on today’s meaning of museum, in many directions.
In 2005 the Museum immediately opened to residents with a participatory art event: the great Save the Moon project, ideated by Jochen Gerz, which involved nearly 3,000 people and would be followed by others over the years. It thereby developed a type of activity devoted to dialoguing and sharing between artist and public so that a passive enjoyer can become an actor in an artistic event or at least a participator in cultural processes.
At the same time the Museum has kept faith with its origins. The project from which it stemmed was the Archive of Space, that great ensemble of photographic campaigns in the Province of Milan held from 1987 to 1997 as part of the territory’s Architectural and Environmental Assets Project. And so commissioning artists has remained an important guideline of the work of the Museum, which proceeded to give artists other commissions in the context of quite varied and well-defined projects. No longer limiting itself to asking photographers to shoot photographs, in a continual opening to the idea of commissioning other works (from participatory art where the artist works with large groups of people to site-specific projects to getting photographers involved in education as tutors), the Museum has worked in many and diverse public places, real and virtual: in the streets, in newspapers, books and on websites. So its efforts have gone beyond the traditional site of the exhibition. It has created dialogue among study, permanent education, production and enjoyment, at the same time enriching its own collections in the conviction that its assets can become even more interesting if they also derive from open projects devised through exchange.
For the Museum of Contemporary Photography its collections are of decisive importance. The contemporary cannot be constructed without a solid historical and historicizing base created by the works produced in the span of time the museum’s mission refers to: from post-World War II to the present. And so the acquisition of new collections from 2004 to 2014 continually concerned the recent past and the most contemporary.
In ten years the Museum has drawn a map of work done to valorize, educate and experiment, always aimed at historicizing and working on the formerly contemporary. In fact, the concept of present does not exist outside of history at a time in which concepts like modern, postmodern and contemporary are being defined. These themes, too, strictly in reference to the open question of the meaning of museum today, were discussed by directors and curators of leading Italian, European and American museums at the conference the Museum of Contemporary Photography recently organized titled What Photography Museum Today? – another undertaking, along with this exhibit, that marks our first ten years of wor
In collaboration with Regione Lombardia, La Triennale di Milano.
Supported by: RS Components, Banca Popolare Commercio e Industria, Epson Italia, Amici del Museo di Fotografia Contemporanea association.
Technical sponsor: Tino Sana, MaMà Design Italia, Philips
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