2005. Jorge Díez. MADRID - PARÍS - TAIPEI


The wide exposure of the first edition of Madrid Abierto in 2004 brought with it, among other things, an invitation to explain the project at the International Conference on Public Art, held last October at the National University of Taipei, organised by Dimension Endowment of Art (DEOA). I intervened, together with the General Delegate for Plastic Arts of France’s Ministry of Culture, Anne-Marie Le Guével, who centred her presentation on the application of part of the resources generated from the 1% assignation from public works contracts to cultural ends (as per the Law on the Historical Heritage) to interventions in the public space and in all kinds of public institution buildings, such as education and cultural centres, and even police stations. This is one of the lines of the continental cultural-policy model which, as we known, France has been championing for years and which, through the assignation of large sums of public funds by central, regional and local administrations to a common objective, has achieved significant advances in different cultural sectors, of which the audiovisual protection fund is the most widely known and the one which has reaped the best results, consolidating French cinema above other countries’ film-making industries now in clear decadence, as for example the once booming Italian and German.

In Spain, on the other hand, we have recently been able to see cases like the projects of the Instituto de Arte Contemporáneo or the Consell de les Arts de Catalunya, which are inspired on the Anglo-Saxon cultural-policy model. In this respect, there is a precedent, initiated during the term in office of the minister, Jorge Semprún, and followed in the period of the minister, Carmen Alborch, with the strengthening of the boards of trustees of a number of national museums in detriment of the role and decision-making power of the directors of those museums and the implementation of the policy promised to the public by the political parties winning the elections. This situation coincides with the growing demand by some of those museum directors and a significant number of curators, critics, gallery directors and artists for more management independence and less political “interference”. The discredited policy and the arbitrary acts produced on more than one occasion encourage this view and serve as an excuse, perhaps inadvertently, to reinforce a model inspired on both the above-mentioned Anglo-Saxon model and the neoliberal revolution of the decade of 1990 headed by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

However, there is a clear distinguishing element in the above-mentioned projects which has to do with the level of representation held by, for example, the Unión de Asociaciones de Artistas Visuales (UAAV) or that which, in one’s private capacity, a specific curator, artist or director of a publication, not to mention a gallery director, regardless of how important it might be in the art market, wants to assert.

In a similar manner, we should distinguish the role of a trustee who finances a national museum through financial resources or artistic funds, as it occurs in the United States, from those who, in one’s private capacity, participate in the management body of a public museum. And in both cases for the simple reason that nobody on an individual basis is legitimised to exercise the decision-making function in respect of objectives and spending public resources, which corresponds to those who hold that responsibility in a democratic system. Because that is the crux of the matter, policy in any sphere, including culture, basically consists of employing funds approved by Parliament to achieve specific objectives and subsequently rendering account to the legitimate representation body, and later facing up to it in the next elections. This does not mean that the responsibility should not be shared in bodies like the above-mentioned Arts Council, but always with those who mediate for the interests of the different sectors through equally representative and democratic bodies, such as the UAAV.

The above is especially relevant when artistically intervening in the public sphere, as in the case of projects like Madrid Abierto. The first edition, despite the modest approaches and financial resources employed, had a more than acceptable national and international projection, as evidenced, for example, in Taipei by the enormous interest raised in teachers, students, artists and professionals of the different sectors of visual arts. Despite the distant cultural relationship between our country and Taiwan, and regardless of the degree of acceptance received by the individual artistic interventions included in the first edition of Madrid Abierto, which incidentally was very high, the model was particularly appreciated, which is based on an international call for presentation of projects, the ephemeral nature of the projects, the assignation of the vast majority of the budget to production and artists’ fees, as well as the collective work in the developing the programme. All this is even more appreciable in an artistic context like Taiwan’s, which is still centred on the public sculpture permanently installed in cities, roads, and the vicinity of museums and all kinds of institutions.

In our country, Madrid Abierto had a large following on the part of all the media channels, although admittedly most were from the general media, as the specialised media, either willingly or unwillingly, marked a civilised distance with regard to this first edition of Madrid Abierto, with the only exception of a categorically bitter and discrediting article published in one of the main cultural supplements. This is the biggest disadvantage of acting independently without any one backing you, except the sponsors, headed by the Fundación Altadis, and the collaboration of the City Council and the Government of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, which acted with the highest respect for the required autonomy of the programme and with valuable support to experimental methods that act in the public sphere. We should also highlight the collaboration of the director of ARCO, who has boosted Madrid Abierto from its beginnings, despite the fact that some of the approaches of the Fair can objectively enter into conflict in some respect with those of this public art programme which, in this second edition, curated by Ramon Parramon, can make a great leap forward in its initial objectives.

From the start, what we have attempted to do in Madrid Abierto is to approach artistic activity as a practice which, in the current complex context, is capable of generating other symbolic imaginaries different from those imposed by the dominant society of entertainment.

Jorge Díez
January 2005