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Ferran Barenblit, MACBA director and part of our jury, shares with LOOP Barcelona his thoughts on collecting

As part of his text Dissident Histories featured in a publication that came out last year focusing on the MACBA Collection , Ferran Barenblit stated that the “the conscious construction of memory and a critical view of the past are the cornerstones of any collection.”

Contributing to the reflection on the meaning of collecting nowadays, the text that follows gathers together quotes from that same publication that differently address the role of public collections, and the specific commitment of the MACBA to supporting both local and international art creation.

“Lawrence Weiner, in one of the works that is part of the Collection, distinguishes between objects of desire, of necessity, and of no concern. We might ask ourselves which category the art object would fall into, sensing that it might be all three at once.”

“That what relates each of the works to the rest; is the true strength of any collection.”

“Two key themes in MACBA collection are: an invitation to reflection, to a concentration which leads to more in- depth knowledge. Study and a serene approach to everything that surrounds us. But also to incorporate critical references to reality.”

“Frustrating any attempt to consider reality as an easily definable whole, the Collection imposes its own forcefulness and, above all, the need to place the artwork in a context, shunning any attempt to declare its autonomy.”

“The artwork becomes something which not only has to be studied in terms of the diversity of the human social and psychological condition, but also actually promotes and magnifies it. In this way, the collection erodes the centrality of the artist and disseminates this conventional prominence in multiple directions. Initially, towards the conditions of production of the work, and finally, towards the viewers and their potential to become transformative agents rather than mere passive receptors of higher notions. And, between the two, yet another which points to the very existence of the collection and the circumstances in which it develops, defying the ‘common sense’ on which the ideological domination of utilitarianism is based.”

“The Collection demonstrates the impossibility of establishing a single story; its own labyrinth highlights the fact that a linear narrative of history is non-viable. The powerful web of argumentation and negation woven by each one of its works presents instead an unexpected territory of intense experiences, undefined boundaries with different combinatorial variants within its structure, some of which defy the history of conventional art.”

“In the context of the determination to reread history and draw new world maps that reflect social and intellectual reality, the MACBA Collection has been able to broaden its horizons and position itself as a space that is critical of colonialism.”

“Despite this broader international scope, the MACBA Collection continues to focus intensively on its local context. (…) As such, this is one of the principal ways in which the institution has become an agent for understanding and structuring the immediate artistic context.”

“MACBA, with its Collection, seeks new models for understanding the transition from modernity to contemporaneity.”

“It is the recognition of complexity and mutability that encapsulates the wealth of possibilities that collections present, now and in the future. As the critic John Berger wrote in ‘Ways of Seeing’, ‘The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled’, and, as he suggested, there are multiple ways of seeing, as seeing involves; it involves individual awareness. However, the MACBA Collection perhaps aims more definitively to articulate the new forms of perception of which the philosopher Jacques Rancière speaks, giving way to ‘new forms of political subjectivity’.”

“The Collection is subject to new pressures. The debate is between its undeniable relationship with the market and the urge towards a homogenising normativism that acts as a tool for imposing cultural hegemony.”

“Although it believes in its own power, it rebels against its assumed inability to respond to expectations, aware that criticism is insufficient to resist the devouring capacity of cultural hyperconsumerism.”

Ferran Barenblit studied Art History at the Universitat de Barcelona (1991) and Museology at New York University (1995). Since 2008 he has been director of CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo de la Comunidad de Madrid. From 2002 to 2008 Barenblit was director of the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica, a space dedicated by the Generalitat de Catalunya to contemporary art. In 1996–98 and 2000–1, Barenblit was the chief curator of Espai 13, at the Fundació Joan Miró, where he organised some fifteen exhibitions. Barenblit has lectured in universities and museums around the world. He was guest lecturer for the Curating Contemporary Art programme of the Royal College of Art, London, from 2006 to 2011. In 2008 he was co-curator of the Site Santa Fe Biennial, New Mexico, and in 2014 he was a member of the jury of the Bienal de Cuenca, Ecuador. He collaborated in the preparation of the Strategic Culture Plan for the city of Madrid. In 2002–8 he was the representative of the Generalitat de Catalunya for the Programming Committee at Hangar. He is a member of: ACCA, Catalan Association of Art Critics (Board: 2000–2); IKT, International Association of Contemporary Art Curators (Board: 2011–14); ADACE, Asociación de Directores de Arte Contemporáneo de España (Board since 2007); CIMAM, International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art.