Heritage, Authorship, Nation, Modernity and Other Founding Myths of the Museum
Course on Contemporary Art and Culture

This class hopes to contribute to the reflection on the role of the Museum as an institution with the dual responsibility of constructing a State artistic heritage and generating historiographical accounts (which themselves are accounts of the make-up of the State), and critically reconsider its role as an institution that legitimizes discourse and artistic practices.

As an institution historically central to the European bourgioise dating from the latter XVIII century, the Museum has experienced profound changes, the most recent being its shift to become central to post-industrialist capitalist Entertainment and Tourism. In fact, attacks on the Museum by late-Vanguard and constant institutional criticism throughout the sixties and seventies strengthened it as an institution. It was then faced with its own radical re-definition in light of consumer hegemony as a central epistemological category, dominant since the eighties in new politics and cultural industries. In this context it is necessary to reconsider the meaning and importance of the Museum as an institution that came about historically as an illustrious, State-sponsored project for popular education.
This class has multiple objectives. On the one hand, it hopes to contribute to a theoretical and historiographical reflection on Contemporary Art by establishing a frame of reference that dissociates the idea of collectionism from that of the Art Market, permitting an understanding of the phenomenon in all of its complexities. On the other hand, it aims to offer a space for debate about new problems the institution faces today by tackling questions about institutional archeology, problems dealing with concepts of heritage, national identity, authority, and history as narrative when dealing with concepts fundamental to the Museum. We aspire to create a space that will allow participants to update their knowledge of these questions which are central in relation to current definitions of intellectual property, new technologies and new forms of institutional mediation and its conflicts. In that sense, it also hopes to offer a frame of reference to re-evaluate fundamental museological concepts.

The context of the Herbert Collection at the MACBA (Spring 2006) will serve as the starting point of the debate over the appearance of significant private collections in post-War Europe and North America, particularly alter the sixties, reflecting the new balance of capital status that North American hegemony implicates in the face of Cold-War Europe. The Annick and Anton Herbert Collection was begun in 1973 within a cultural context marked by the appearance of new artistic behavior, Conceptualism, and practices of institutional criticism. Based in Gante, Belgium, the Herbert Collection contains the works of forty five international artists, the majority being from Conceptualism, Minimalism or Arte Povera; movements which developed in Europe and the United Status in the seventies; though recently works of younger artists such as Franz West, Matin Kippenberger, Jan Vervruysse and Mike Kelley have been included. Among those artists represented in the collection are Marcel Broodthaers, Mario Merz, Jannis Kounellis, Richard Long, Gilbert & George, Luciano Fabro, Gerhard Richter, Daniel Buren, Art & Language, Robert Ryman, Joseph Kosuth, On Kawara, Douglas Huebler, Dan Graham, Bruce Nauman, Sol LeWitt, Lawrence Weiner, Donald Judd, Michelangelo Pistoletto, and Carl Andre.

The class is built around four central conceptual axis. The first is a geneological reflection on the appearance of the Museum and its historical and cultural conditions. The second tackles the confluence of historiographical and museological discourses and, because of that, the articulation of narrative, expositive and hereditary logics. The third axis is a balance of the practices of institutional criticism, which, since the sixties, has been the primary territory of experimentation and self-criticism within the institution. And, finally, the fourth axis deals with new problems that result from heritage within the context of current technologies, new cultural politics, and new artistic practices that question and challenge traditional materialism and authority.

This project has been carried out within the framework of Translate and with the support of the European Community.


With the collaboration of:
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The sessions will take place on Mondays at 7 pm.

Hans Haacke and Walter Grasskamp, Experiments with Collections...What is a
Collection? What is it for?

Bernard Blistène, Collecting and Museum. Constructing a Critical Memory of a Period

Andrea Giunta, the Construction of the Account of Peripheral Modernity in Relation to Latin American Art. The Role of the Museums

Francisco Jarauta, an Archaeology of the Museum, from the Cabinets of Curiosities to the Bourgeois Public Sphere…

Simon Sheikh. Consitutive Effects: The Museum and the Bourgeois Public

Peter Weibel, the Museum and the New Technologies, the Case of ZKM

Dan Graham and Chris Dercon, the Carnivalisation of Conceptual Art


Bernard Blistène is the general inspector of artistic creation within the delegation of plastic arts and the Minister of Culture and Communication in France.

Chris Dercon is the director of Munich's Haus der Kunst

Andrea Giunta is a professor of Latin American Art at the University of Buenos Aiers, CONICET researcher, and visiting professor to Duke, Monterrey and Princeton Universities.

Dan Graham is an artist.

Walter Grasskamp is a professor and art critic.

Hans Haacke is an artist.

Francisco Jarauta has a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Murcia.

Peter Weibel is the director of the Karisruhe Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM)

MACBA Auditorium, Plaça Joan Corominas
Limited number of seats. Programme subject to possible last-minute changes.