What the National Museum of Contemporary Art is and what it should be (ANTI, 5/5/2006)

Mihalis Papadakis, sculptor
President of the Chamber of Fine Arts of Greece
Member of the B.D. of the EMST
What is the EMST and a proposition what it should be (ΑΝΤΙ, 5/5/2006)
With a delay of more than 50 years, Greece obtained Contemporary Art museums, one in Athens, the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST), and one in Thessaloniki, the State Museum of Contemporary Art (KMST).
The delay of over half a century could have benefited a correct attitude towards them, if this “logic” was not hiding behind it, the same “logic” on which their way of functioning is based as well. And this “logic” is not other than the one of the broker.
These newly-founded Museums could have learnt from the experience (negative and positive) of the other museums all over the world, if the target of the political leadership of each time was not with each cultural policy to create incorporations to the mechanisms of the international Art market. This way, it is believed (it is also an argument) that the work of Greek artists is dispersed abroad, to a wider public. They get past the fact that these mechanisms function since their foundation only as importers of a specific kind of works – standards of supposedly Contemporary Art…
Governmental policy
The relation of Art with the wide public, as far as the governmental policy is concerned, is covered in general lines by three axes:
a) by the axis that exploits our so called cultural advantage, which is our archaeological treasure, managed as an “attraction”,
b) by the axis of the promotion of exhibitions-events without orientation at a peripheral level, so that small local productions are satisfied, and
c) by the axis of the governmental funding to private importers of patented international productions, of a mental level of an eleven-year-old –as this kind defines–, with which supposedly a widened world civilization is developed, but in reality an international consuming public of standardized aesthetical products is formed. The “Cow-Parade” is a recent characteristic example of such a policy.
On the third axis is where the National Museums of Contemporary Art were founded in Greece. Late, of course, but through the imperative need to widen the market, with the aim to comprise web nodes of product promotion from the center to the periphery and to the third zone of consumption, like Greece is, where “rests” are sold at low prices.
Creation or applications
The need of the market to create aesthetic products of massive consumption is the one that has created internationally the drastic turn towards Applied Arts and the override of Fine Arts. This aim is served with consistency until now by the EMST as well.  
Free drawing is the absolute base of Drawing and of Sculpture. At the same time it is the absolute expression of individuality that is socialized in the catholic concepts, that only with them –finally– Art is concerned in its historical route. At this, the first level, of the Work of Art itself, the individual satisfies his need for Art socially, mostly through the public space.  
Line drawing is the base of applications and of multiple reproductions, at two and at three dimensions. On that is where the –at a second level- everyday use of the image of the Work of Art, or of its concept, is based.
When fine art creation (free drawing) is equalized with applications (line drawing), promoting the latter as Works of Art, not only the presence of individuality is subtracted from the concept of the Work of Art (the product of application does not involve individuality), but also the image of the catholic concepts is necessarily reduced to the measurable abilities of the standardization means (standardization means is also the camera and the PC).
Guidance tools
If we keep in mind that civilization in its total comprises the image of self-consciousness, the ideology of each society…
If we keep in mind, at the same time, that civilization in its total is the second in size investing field after equipments…
… Then it is easy to understand, why everyone is interested to manage it and to monopolize it.  
First the “lawmaker” Venizelos attempted to set the two main guidance “tools” of the political power to the law of both Contemporary Art Museums:
First “tool”: The members of the nine-member B.D. (everyone except the representative of the Chamber of Fine Arts of Greece) are assigned every three years by the minister of culture.
Is it difficult to understand that exactly this personalized relation of each member with each minister makes it impossible for the B.D. to operate as an independent unit?  
On the contrary, the law should define that seven out of the nine members of the B.D. should consist of representatives of scientific and artistic institutions. They should be assigned by these institutions, so that they express the collective responsibility of the state foundations. The Ministry of Culture should be represented by the president and one more member, with two basic duties: a) the assurance of the institutional procedures and b) the communication of the Museum with the Ministry of Culture.
Second “tool”: The director of the Museum is assigned by the minister!!!
Is it difficult for someone to understand that even this personalized engagement of each minister creates an idiomorphic diarchy, which in the act tends to be in favor of the director, as he is the paid attendant of the Museum mechanism?  
The example of the EMST is the most relevant for the description of a schizophrenic situation in the administrative organs of the Museum.  
On the contrary, the law should define that the director should be assigned by the B.D. (as well as be discharged by it), as only it (the B.D.) has the responsibility for the definition of the cultural policy of the Museum and the responsibility for the management of public money for its materialization.
The schizophrenia of the assignment of a power by the minister (that of the director), who has no responsibility (not even a vote on the decisions) – neither for the cultural policy, nor for the economical management–, proceeds from the appetite of each political power to guide the procedures of the state institutional organs, so that they are reduced to the level of its conveniences.  
If it was possible to eliminate these two “tools”, the road would be open for Greece to obtain a unique in its kind foundation, which with scientific methods would study the fine art phenomenon and produce scientific knowledge.
Below follows a proposition that has been registered to the B.D. of the EMST since 23/12/2004 and until now has not been discussed.
The EMST is a cultural institution that has as a mission to promote in its field (the field of contemporary fine art creation after 1950) the following aims:

Mapping of the representative development trends of fine art creation under the most scientific way.
Composition of collections, from markets and donations, which will record historically the aesthetic points of view-suggestions (trends) in all kinds of contemporary fine art creation. Support to the collections will be provided by scientific (that is to say understandable) texts.
Encouragement and help to fine art creation and research.
Provision of material prerequisites for the presentation or the creation and presentation of works-projects of artists, which have been approved by the relevant committees of the museum, as well as provision of theoretical support and promotion (publications etc).
Acquaintance of the public with contemporary fine art creation.
Exhibitions, seminars, educational programs and publications, taking in mind the issues of employment by the public, which are processed by the EMST (see note d).
Creation of the infrastructure for the promotion of scientific research on the objects and the phenomena of fine art creation, on theoretical employment and on the employment of the work of art by the public.  
The scientific research and the continuous contact of the museum with contemporary fine art creation without exclusions should be based on:
a) A group of three curators (with relevant scientific background), which receives artists’ folders, research suggestions-projects, suggestions for congresses etc and judges them primarily, negatively or positively, excusably.
b) A multi-member scientific committee (for example of 20 members), in which the three curators present all the folders, suggestions etc and their recommendations. This committee meets four times each year and forms the final recommendation for the B.D. Being multi-member, this committee will be able to be separated, if it finds it necessary, to smaller committees, so that it can face different objects, like the choice of the suggestions, of scientific programs, scientific congresses or management of scientific material.
Incorporation of the above to the world Fine Art happening as an energetic part.
International congresses, participation to European and other research projects, exchanges.

The director of the Museum directs and takes care of the normal and efficient operation of these procedures and makes recommendations to the B.D.  

Mihalis Papadakis

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