Blog — 21 jun 2016 — Beatrix Ruf

Welcome, everyone, to the Stedelijk Museum. Today is an important day, because today we kick-off the research needed for the repositioning of SMBA, the Stedelijk’s satellite research institute. Although I understand Dutch, I would like to proceed in English, because this is a topic I’d like to go over carefully.  Following our discussion, feel free to speak in either Dutch or English.

I do still not know or have seen everything – as you can imagine – it has been intense inside and outside the Stedelijk in the last year: but I am very exited to be here and exited about the cultural landscape of this city and country.
Amsterdam impresses by the richness of its own cultural complexity and diversity, and the many institutions bringing artists and curators to town at the edge of their beginnings,
I am thinking of Rijksacademie, deAteliers, Sandberg, de Appel and spaces like W139, Pakt, FramerFramed, Kunstverein and many more – many having survived or are surviving shaky times and having adopted to new conditions of the cultural landscape and the “post welfare” conditions we are all working in.

With the research on a new and continued SMBA we want to concentrate and only briefly pause in physical presence of this institution, as beginning of next year we want to start a new space, we want to take SMBA forward as a new format, in the center of our thinking.

We want SMBA to continue its relevance into the future and to be a central voice of today.
Together we want to have everybody here and abroad to be able to experience and get to know this international cultural voices of Amsterdam.

We want to learn from dialogues and add multiple voices to our research
We want to learn more about how to be local in the changed conditions we are living and working in, how we are and want to be global, and what kind of institutional model we want to offer as an additional place to Amsterdam.

We also want to find out how can we be a place, which is open, flexibel and fit to continuously adopt to change in the arts and in society. We want to be used and needed as a public space. We really want to move and change in dialogue.

23 years ago, Museum Fodor voor Amsterdamse Kunst suddenly lost its funding from the city of Amsterdam. After protests from artists, the SMBA arose from a small amount reserved for that function.

(I’ve been told some fighting went on during the discussions about the closing of Fodor. Hopefully we manage today to have rather constructive fights of words….the great thing so is – if that happens – it shows that public institutions like these are emotional places, in the heart of many people… So, yes, we hope for real engagment.)

In the last 23 years, the SMBA has had many identities. It was successively led by Leontine Coelewij and Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen, and in recent years curated by Jelle Bouwhuis.

From a platform for young Amsterdam-based makers and artists, a production house and a breeding ground for local and increasingly international collaborations, it grew into a research center around Global Collaborations.

The Stedelijk was continuously nourished and inspired by the knowledge and networks resulting from SMBA, which were brought into the museum in various ways.
By including artworks from SMBA projects in its collection, or by including then young and relatively unknown artists in the Stedelijk’s exhibition programming. To mention a few of them: Rineke Dijkstra, Aernout Mik, Michael Tedja, Willem de Rooij, and Tino Sehgal. we recently also acquired video works by Tromarama and an installation by Amol Petil.

The relations between SMBA and the Stedelijk Museum were always charged with emotions, SMBA was kind of a self injected and assigned critisism: as a successor to Museum Fodor, as an inquisitive and critical satellite, as a pathfinder for experimental and new policymaking. The changing of ambitions or the relocation of a place mark endings, but always a new beginning as well.

When I started out here, I saw the great accomplishments of this place. In my previous job I closely followed SMBA’s exhibition programming and worked with several artists who have exhibited at SMBA, such as De Rijke/De Rooij. But I also noticed the more vulnerable aspects of this satellite. From the beginning, its financial and organizational frameworks have been less than perfect.
Lack of money has always been an issue. And when SMBA disappeared from the Kunstenplan in 2013, the Stedelijk became financially responsible and SMBA’s budget grew even tighter.
This was around the time of the museum’s re-opening, and the time of the massive budget cuts in the cultural sector. It is thanks to funds such as Ammodo, the Mondriaan Fund and others that systematically support SMBA that the place could even stay open after 2013…

End of last year we made the choice to seriously invest in the satellite institution, and to seek a repositioning of SMBA. It’s become clear to me that things must be arranged better and more sustainably. That is why, together with Ammodo, we’ve decided to investigate how the continuity of SMBA can be safeguarded and how its effects on this city can be still further expanded.

To briefly return to SMBA’s impact on the Stedelijk’s recent policy choices: the Global Collaborations program and Project 1975, both supported by Ammodo, are a key inspiration for the Stedelijk Museum’s course in the coming years. For example, in 2014 Global Collaborations resulted in a three-day conference and a strong awareness that this way of thinking must become anchored within our walls and our minds. Our programming for 2017 around the theme of migration in all its facets is a first result of this.
A clearly focused acquisition policy, thorough research led by Jelle Bouwhuis, and a collaboration with The Silent University are several other early results of this process.

We are acutely aware of the local situation, which often makes things difficult for Amsterdam-based artists. We’re not blind to the shortage of studio space, presentation locations and development centers. We have frequently urged the city government to ensure a long-term investment in the cultural urban infrastructure with regard to locations, controlled rent and the allocation of spaces.

We certainly feel a responsibility in this, but the Stedelijk Museum’s primary assignment is a different one.
Our task is to signal new developments in the field of art, we want to question rather then to confirm.
Our task is also to bring the world beyond our city into it, and to adequately present it.
We engage in and are alert of existing concerns – those that also surfaced in the advice report by the Amsterdam Kunstraad / art council – about differences, relationships and responsibilities between the Stedelijk Museum and smaller presentation spaces in Amsterdam. We want to open a new chapter for the SMBA, and the new institution should play a key part in the closing of gaps and the activation of collaborations.

Today we invited you for a public round to bring your voices and knowledge to our research.

We also invited three curators from diverse contexts, all of them with specific experience in setting up new institutional models in a local context.
We consider them exceptional and are very happy they agreed to work with us.

We are looking a lot forward for them to be thinking with us and the city of Amsterdam to bring extended knowledge to what is found here.

Together with our chief curator Bart van der Heide, with curator Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen and Milou van Vlijmen of Ammodo they will team up in a working group, which will be also continuously open to your input.

Our three foreign experts are: Sophie Goltz, Eungie Joo, Emily Pethik.

Sophie Goltz, (DE) was initiator of the Stadtkuratorin in Hamburg, where since 2013 she has headed a program for public art that reflects global and social issues. She also works as curator for Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (since 2008), lectures at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Hamburg, and writes for journals such as Texte zur Kunst and Springerin. Her previous roles include freelance curator and “art educator” for Documenta 11 (2002), the 3rd Berlin Biennale (2004), Projekt Migration, Cologne (2004–06), and Documenta 12 (2007).

Eungie Joo, joins us from the US, but more so from Korea where she is artistic director of the 5th An-yang Public Art Project to be inaugurated in October this year.
Eungie was curator of the 12th Sharjah Biennial (2015), Director of Art and Cultural Programs at Instituto Inhotim Brazil (2012-2014), and Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs at the New Museum, New York (2007-2012), where she installed the Museum as Hub project. At the New Museum, Joo published Rethinking Contemporary Art and Multicultural Education (Routledge and New Museum, 2009) and the Art Spaces Directory (ArtAsiaPacific and New Museum, 2012)
Eungie also curated The Ungovernables, 2012, presented „Condensation“ by Haegue Yang at the Korean Pavilion (2009) and was founding Director of REDCAT, Los Angeles (2003–2007).

Emily Pethick (UK) is director of The Showroom, London, which she relocated as well physically and mentally in the London landscape. Between 2003 and 2004, she was curator of Cubitt, London. She has contributed to numerous catalogs and journals, including Frieze, dot dot dot, GAS, Texte zur Kunst, Artforum, and Untitled, and has published a number of books.
Emily knows the Dutch landscape from inside, as from 2005–2008 she was director of Casco, Office for Art Design and Theory, in Utrecht – and is devising the curatorial program Curating Positions in 2016-2017 for the Dutch Art Institut (DAI).

Sophie, Eungie and Emily’s assignment is to make the rounds, to listen closely, to work closely with us and to present recommendations, based on their expertise, for an institution that will truly hold a position of its own within the ecosystem of Amsterdam art institutions.

Help them and us to get to know more, about what to focus on.
The agenda set today, with your input, will function as one of the starting points of the research group’s activities.

Please take the opportunity, contribute and help us in the development of a new institution, a place that gives expression to Amsterdam’s art production in all its shapes and forms.

We know that this decision aroused many emotions, but I would like to highlight again that we want to take a next step and focus on the future. We don’t want to stay for too long with these negative sentiments but we want to see this as a positive starting point.

It’s a good thing that these emotions are so prominent, right now. It shows that everyone is feeling very much involved.

I have heard many new things that can help us developing the research, thank you for that.