- A misunderstood work of art
- The literary meeting
- An alternative cartography
- The strategic content
- Next stop: Fluxus Station
- Choosing the ready-made
- Artists have voted "YES"
- This will work
- When the work is good...
- Not even Broodthaers could imagine
- Hello La Galerie légitime, my name is the Davis Museum!
- Welcome, Yoko!
- Grow and multiply
- Future? Answer!
In 2005, I was invited by an art gallery in Madrid to participate in the Holland Art Fair. Anna Accensi, my wife, and I went to Holland and once there, we decided to visit the Gemeentemuseum (The Municipal Museum of The Hague), where I had first contact with the Boîte-en-valise by Marcel Duchamp; a work which -at first impression- didn't generate any special interest to me. Surely, it must have been my ignorance about the contents of that art piece that made me react like this. Today I'm amazed to think that four years after this casual meeting, my whole life would take an unexpected turn.
In 2008, twelve years later during my studies of Fine Arts at the Universitat de Barcelona, I was so tired of obeying orders in what I should read and do in arts, I decided to enter in the Librería Casa del Libro, a bookstore located at Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, to look and maybe to buy something that I really was interested in. On the shelves I came across a copy of the monumental 20th-century art manual: Art since 1900, modernism, antimodernism and postmodernism by Hal Foster, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, and Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, from 2004, published by Thames & Hudson, London and published in Spain by Editorial Akal. I bought the volume of 704 pages and I went back home. The book began with The jurisprudence by Gustav Klimt, from 1903-1907 and ended with the Bubble House by Tacita Dean, from 1999.
The book was very interesting and explanatory and included many already well-known artists and works, but in some moments, it gives us a renewed version of the themes, unusual anchor points started to come into view; creating new perspectives of reading, linking different artists and also lesser-known works of art.
On page 271, the authors wrote a chapter explaining the impact of mechanical reproduction, which was introduced into art through photography, in Europe in the year 1935, and how it changed the concepts of aesthetic theory, art history, and artistic practice. In this chapter they created a very fine interconnection between the renowned essay by the German philosopher Walter Benjamin The work of art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction, in relation with the chapter titled The Museum without walls from the book The Voices of Silence by André Malraux and the Boîte-en-valise (Box in a suitcase) by Marcel Duchamp, who created an artwork of a briefcase containing 89 miniature reproductions of his own works. This made the French artist the first artist in Art History who produced his first "retrospective" inside his portable museum.
The mapping of the authors has been deployed. On page 459, one more point was added on the route about the idea of museums created by artists:
Galerie légitime (The legitimate gallery), from 1962-1963, by the French Fluxus artist Robert Filliou.
The authors defined his work as a "gallery" that can be created in the brain of anyone, and he marked his one by a hat, which played the role
of an imaginary and portable art shop. He decided to remain outside of the gallery circuit and maintained to carry his gallery under his hat:
“La Galerie Légitime”. His works gathered together in his beret and stamped “Galerie Légitime Couvre Chef d’Oeuvre” [Legitimate
Gallery Masterpiece Hat], circulated in the streets with him (an idea closely related to Marcel Duchamp’s suitcase).
From here, we can notice a change: the artist no longer exhibits his works, as in the Boîte-en-valise, but opens an artistic space
to be occupied by other artists.
Le Voyage de La galerie légitime, an auction (The journey of The legitimate gallery, an auction) was a Filliou's street happening in Paris, performed in 1962, beside the American artist Ben Patterson. The first artist was carrying his "gallery" in the hat which contained some of Ben’s small objects. When Filliou found someone in the street interested in art, he presented the "exhibition" and offered objects to be purchased. Filliou achieved his goal: he sold them.
When I read about the La galerie légitime, I had an insight, a sort of cascade of ideas appeared in my mind like a pearl necklace that instantly formed in front of me. Each pearl was an idea, every idea was connected with the next one and in a few seconds, the imaginary necklace was completed. So, if I would take the La Galerie légitime as a starting point...How could I take a step further? How can I upgrade it? How to turn it contemporary? Then, I spent some time thinking about what might reflect our contemporary time and suddenly, I realized the answer was social networks. Facebook was created in 2005 and four years later, I could upgrade La Galerie légitime connecting it with social networks. Eureka! I got it! It will be the Davis Museum!
Immediately I stopped reading the book and the next day I went to Servei Estació, in Carrer d'Aragó, Barcelona, which is a specialized store in home, industrial and DIY materials. Without any preset idea, I went looking for an object to transform it into my ready-made/portable museum of contemporary art. In the plastic section, I found a methacrylate ballot box, almost 8 inches cube, with its slot at the top. I went back to my art studio and took my DAVIS logo in which I used to promote my art studio -and simply added the word MUSEUM in it. Then I ordered a digital print on vinyl and attached it to the urn. The photoshoot began -seventy shots were made until I got the almost perfect image. The selected photography was retouched using Photoshop and after I went to my computer to create a Facebook group.
Once the Davis Museum group on Facebook was opened, I began to invite artists and brought them together. I wrote a manifesto and a list of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) in which I explained what the Davis Museum is, how it works, what its purposes are and what the advantages are for artists to join it. Surprise! Many artists voted "YES" to my proposal to organize a museum of contemporary art for their works. The collection started this way!
When I invited Richard Garet (Montevideo, Uruguay, 1972) -based in New York- to make his exhibition at the Davis Museum, he sent me Gap, Edition 5/5,from 2009, a digital video of seven minutes and ten seconds. When this piece was inserted in our newly purchased iPod, Anna Accensi (my wife), Boris (my Siamese cat -rest in peace) and I, we were shocked throughout the projection. The work was amazing! At that moment, I thought the Davis Museum could become relevant in the future and it would be worthwhile to pursue it...even if it was non-profit!
I recorded the iPod screening Gap, Edition 5/5 inside the Davis Museum ballot box and published the video on YouTube. I also designed an e-poster of his exhibition and worked hard on the dissemination of the content, spamming my list of contemporary art contacts with 10,000 e-mails; Fine Arts students, from beginners to established artists, various art galleries, teachers, art historians, art curators, art museums, press, art magazines, televisions and more. And it was a success. Two of these e-posters arrived in the inbox of Stéphani Hab and Irene Pomar, two young contemporary art curators based in Paris and...
Amid an avalanche of works, artists, invitations, exhibitions, curators of contemporary art from Paris, Hungarian art magazine reporters, TV interviews, and all kind of visitors -I don't know how- I could register the Davis Museum logo at the OEPM, Oficina Española de Patentes y Marcas (Spanish Patent and Trademark Office) and started designing the official website of the project. However, the most important step was when I asked myself: "Why not add another layer of meaning to my ready-made/portable museum of contemporary art and turn it into a cultural organization recognized by the Government?"
After several failed attempts to make an appointment with someone to explain to me how to institutionalize my art project, finally, I arranged a meeting with the general director of museums in Catalonia. I visited his office with a small report of only twelve pages. I was so excited and Mr. J (to preserve his privacy, let's call him Mr. J) was friendly, he also listened to my explanations about the project and finally asked me if I was crazy.
_Mr. J! Am I crazy? Why? I rebuked him.
And Mr. J started to explain to me how the funding of cultural organizations in Spain works -most of them are financially unviable- and from five hundred cultural organizations in Catalonia, only four of them are workable: the Picasso Museum, the Dali Museum, the Sagrada Familia Museum, and the Barça Museum.
After hearing his explanation, I was embarrassed and sitting in that black leather chair, with my arms stretched down, motionless. But I reacted quickly and took a chance to play my last card:
_What could I do in these adverse conditions?
He took his time and said:
_I have good news for you. We will recognize your art project as a cultural organization. The Davis Museum will be published in the Generalitat de Catalunya digital and printed publications. You will have to send us your annual report about the number of works of art, artists and exhibitions. Also information about publications, events, workshops, visitors, etc. But...I have bad news too: we will not fund your museum: zero euro.
I accepted the conditions, filled all documents and sent all the required information. Not even Broodthaers could have imagined this. For the first time in the History of Art, a ready-made and a cultural organization had been merged!
I titled all video clips containing works of artists' video exhibitions and presented them on the Davis Museum channel on YouTube. This was my proposal for another way to make contemporary art exhibitions in museums. Video exhibitions were launched one after another... until one day in 2010 when I opened my e-mail program and found a message by Nav Haq, a British curator who invited me to participate in a major exhibition entitled Museum Show, with a selection of 40 artists from all over the world to be held in Arnolfini, Bristol, UK. The exhibition was about mapping the development of the museums created by artists, from the early twentieth century until today. Surprise! The Boîte-en-valise by Marcel Duchamp, the La Galerie légitime by Robert Filliou, the Musée d'Art Moderne, Département des Aigles by Marcel Broodthaers, the Museum of Contemporary African Art by Meshac Gaba will be there, among others. What a change! I was hardly studying all those artists (for me, they were only abstract characters in the books) and all those works of art (for me, they were only abstract ideas in the books) and suddenly...they had become my partners in the exhibition!
Museum Show in 2011 was the debut of the Davis Museum in the international contemporary art scene. Thereafter, the amount and level of the artists joining the Davis Museum started to rise. In these seven years, 27 video exhibitions were launched online and the same number of physical exhibitions was produced by the Davis Museum, some of them with historical artists like Yoko Ono, Ben Patterson, Sean Miller, Tom Marioni, Francesc Torres, Bill Burns, Miho Shimizu and Oyvind Renberg (Danger Museum), among others.
Currently, the Davis Museum collection has 320 works by artists from all over the world. Up till now. To add to all this, some extraordinary people who have done amazing things had also joined this art project. Such as art historian Rose Marie Barrientos, who donated to the collection 20 works by the following contemporary artists: Mansour Ciss Kanakassy, Baruch Gottlieb, Ian & Ingrid Baxter, Res Ingold, Benjamin Sabatier, Cèdric Guillermo, Protoplast, Etoy, and Jazon Frings. Another extraordinary person was Sacha Waldron, curator at Crate Art Space, located in Margate, UK. Sacha and I have worked hard to make the exhibition Small, Unusual Museums and Specialist Survey in 2011 and it was a pleasure working with her.
While video exhibitions were being launched, I kept working for seven years for the same purpose: to expand the boundaries of the contemporary art museum. To do this, I've been creating The Sections from Davis Museum -in the same way as Départments by Broodthaers - it means, groups of works that complement the idea of the museum as a work of art. From 2009 to 2016 several The Sections were created and a few of them have been eliminated. The fifteen that have stood the test of time are: The Permanent Collection, The Videos (video exhibitions), The e-Posters, The Mind Maps, The Texts, The Stamps, The Staff, The Audioguides, The Animated GIF, The Documentations, The Comics, The Library, The Maps, The Referendum (including the mini-installation titled Polling Station, where people can physically see the works, review the exhibition and can be photographed when they come to the museum) and also The Screenshots.
Some of The Sections are basic because the Davis Museum needs them to exist as a cultural organization, such as The Permanent Collection, The Videos (video exhibitions) and The e-Posters. On the other hand, another The Sections have generated a great impact on visitors and followers. The Referendum did it because it proposed an alteration of the old role of the visitors inside museums, usually relegated to passivity and invisibility. It also allows visitors to insert themselves in the work of art, letting them write opinions about the show. The Referendum allows anyone to find out who the people are who visit the exhibition and what they have thought about it. This way, all the agents who play a role in a museum exhibition are interconnected through the net: the artist, the work of art, the museum and the visitor. There are still some people who remember me because they were laughing while reading my satirical cartoons of The Comics. The sarcasm in which I criticized the art world seems to have left its memory. Some of the followers have written me they still laugh at those jokes.
What should be the future of the Davis Museum?
Send it to email@example.com
Barcelona, March 8, 2016