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The new cycle in Gulbenkian Museum’s life

The merge of the Services provided by The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in the fields of museology and exhibitions, which caused the end of CAM, did not go unnoticed within the plastic and visual arts community. It’s a substantive change, not just a cosmetic maneuver, rather something that fosters a new cycle in Gulbenkian’s life, as put by its President, Dr. Santos Silva.

The departure of João Castel-Branco, the museum’s former director, which was in charge of that role since 1988, and the year of commemoration of the institution’s 60th anniversary, feed the idea to join the centers of ancient and modern art in a single body, being ruled by the same person. The British art historian, Penelope Curtis, accountable for Tate Britain from 2010 to June 2015, was chosen from an international contest to carry out this merge, assuming the lead of both nucleuses, the first sign of a major transformation that will gradually take place.

“It’s a major decision and it will take time for people to get used to it”, stated P. Curtis. The former Museum and the CAM both assumed a single designation, with their statuses being unified – Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. The difference will rely on their collections: the nucleuses of the Founder’s Collection and of the Modern Art will keep their acquis and nurture a more open dialogue, thus creating a synergy between the two. “Turning these two museums into just one poses a challenge”. Regarding this, I think there’s a misconception, because CAM was built thirty years ago, it was never a museum in itself, and it was not conceived to fill such a role. “I want to keep everything that is good in the museum and, at the same time, work to fulfill its potential, particularly when it comes to CAM”. The intention is to bring both collections, of ancient and modern arts, together, under a single banner. A fundamental change in the organization that constitutes the institution’s acquis.

Albeit their transformation, the museum’s distinct nucleuses “will keep their identity, in what concerns the museum’s collections and activities”, and will not lose “their facets”. Nonetheless, CAM’s extinction is not something naive, as this is an authentic revolution within Gulbenkian.

Two Collections talking to each other

The exhibiting pattern aims to promote collective showcases, abiding by a theme, intersecting the old and the modern/contemporary universes, instead of being centered in a single artist, striving to refresh the collections. “I want to present the collection under a more aesthetic perspective, thus allowing the art to speak for itself”. Within this exhibiting context, these showcases bring to light brand new ideas and different ways of looking at art. Regarding the audience turnout, a slight unbalance between both nucleuses should continue to exist; unless the existence of a contemporary field happens to be misrepresented in a specific area, which always has its toll on its usufruct. “My wish it to bring the old and the new together, under a more comprehensive perspective. To transform something is to keep the dialogue between tradition and innovation”. In a context of reorganization, the CAM, given its major significance, will have a wider visibility, being granted with a permanent exhibition. Asked about the end of the name CAM, the responsible mentioned that “those from outside will have an easier adaptation, which will not be the case with the internal teams, so used to go by that name”.

Certainly, the CAM will last in memory for many years to come, having persisted to this day and having withstood itself for more than thirty years. In the field of the history of visual arts, the historical periods of both collections will hardly be compatible. Particularly, when taking into account, based on Duchamp’s conceptual discourse, the unique path that the contemporary art has taken, creating pieces where situations and environments become challenging and troublesome, detaching themselves from the old discourse. These depict distinct universes, with dissimilar aesthetic values, sometimes even fracturing in particular moments, where the exercise of watching and looking can hardly remain in one piece and coexist in the very same space. Since the end of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st century, the relationship with the image itself is difficult to interact with, in the scope of perceptibility. Both collections actually have two separate worlds, and they should coexist amicably while occupying difference spaces, as both nucleuses can be in harm’s way in the process. If the world had to be created scratch again, perhaps Curtis would have an easier task, taking into account that she hold experiences when it comes to establishing museums, in an initial stage. “I always enjoyed and had the luck to be part of the projects’ initial stage”.

Manuela Synek has collaborated with Umbigo magazine for over ten years. As the years go by, it identifies itself more and more with this consistent, ever-changing, innovative, bold and consistent design in its editorial line. She is a Historian and Art Critic graduated by the Superior Institute of Artistic Careers of Paris in Critique of Art and Aesthetics. She is also graduated in Aesthetics from the University of Paris I - Panthéon – Sorbonne and has the "Postgraduate Course in History of Art, Contemporary Art Strand", by Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Manuela is the author of books on authors in the area of Plastic Arts and has participated in Colloquiums as Lecturer related to Artistic Heritage; Painting; Sculpture and Design in Universities; Higher Schools and Autarchies. Lately she specialized in the subject of Public Art and Urban Space, with the analysis of the artistic works where she has made Communications. She writes for Umbigo magazine about the work of artists in the area of the visual arts who appear in the field of exhibitions and also the dissemination of emerging Portuguese values with new supports since installation, photography and video, where the body appears in its various aspects, raising pertinent issues.

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