The dark cloud looming over the art world in recent months is how the worldwide economic recession is going to hit. We've already seen some of its consequences (from the dire situation of MoCA LA's finances to the apparent 'return to painting' in the art market), but what about daily practicalities? How is the lack of cash flow or collapse of the British pound, for instance, going to affect programming in art centres and museums? Is waning support for new productions, residencies, research and travel obvious already?
In the Nov–Dec. Frieze, Dan Fox wrote around the last recession in the 1990s, when "newspapers and television talked about art rather than the art market and how dynamic or corrupt it might be" and when there were "fewer of everything: fewer artists, curators, galleries, magazines, art consultants, private foundations." As Fox states, the credit crunch is also a "content crunch". Having exchanged "crunchy" opinions with a few artists and curators recently, one senses that the relentless rhythm of e-fluxes and the like, and the constant proliferation of and aspiration to travel to and from biennials/triennials/quadrennials, art fairs, symposiums, gala dinners, discussion platforms, art auctions, etc. are feeling increasingly, well, just too much. Maybe a downsizing will have its benefits? Bringing in some examples close to home, one wonders how are the many Spanish museums that have appeared in the last decade facing up to the new economic year. In Catalunya alone, there has been a flourishing of art centres (Lleida, Granollers, Girona (with temporary venues)), and soon there will be further venues in Vic and Tarragona. On the other side of the coin, in Barcelona already a few key art spaces, which offered invaluable support for new commissions, have already 'gone with the wind' and there is a clear lack of infrastructure and of competitive study programmes (La Vanguardia, 30/11/08). Sala Montcada, for instance, has gone. Operating since 1981, it has just had its two final seasons at Caixaforum after much revolt within the artistic community when, in 2005, 'La Caixa' foundation announced its closure and then stayed its execution – at least until now. After two lacklustre seasons with works produced by Le Fresnoy, Espai 13 in Fundació Miró, began to show signs of life again last October with a programme curated by Jorge Díez. But most notably there was the sudden closure (or 'reconversion'/new orientation in the words of the politicians) of the Centre d'Art Santa Mònica (CASM), whose programme limps on until early 2009. The pre-Christmas news (El País, 10.12.08) was that the announcement of the new venue for the long-awaited replacement kunsthalle space (renamed as Centre d'Art de Barcelona - see post 17.07.08) will be located in a 1,200m2 space in the newly-opened 'Imagina' building. Built in the former site of a textile factory, Ca l'Aranyó in the new-technology branded district called [email protected], east of the city, the site is near the future Disseny Hub Barcelona, the Auditori, the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, and Hangar, Barcelona's only surviving production and residency centre, in Poblenou. According to councillor Joan Manuel Tresseras, the new art centre will be a joint force of the Ajuntament de Barcelona (Barcelona City Council) and the Conselleria de Cultura (Art Department of the Catalan Government). But, two days later the Ajuntament said they knew nothing about this new venture (El País, 12.12.08) becoming clear that Tresseras wanted to close the 'open wound' that began with the 'reconversion' of CASM, before its new director, Vicenç Altaió, announces the new exhibition programme.
Dejà vu? How can Tresseras insist on providing a transparent procedure of selection for a new director for the art centre, when there is a clear and alarming lack of transparency, dialogue and set of priorities amongst the cultural agents operating within the same city? How can an independent management and operational funding be secured to attract a competitive bunch of professionals to apply following an open-call selection process? Ideally it should also establish an open call not only for its head figure, but for its whole team, from organisers to restaurant caterers. Find the best, by offering the best.