At the end of the eighteenth century and all along the nineteenth many royal collections became public and the great national museums founded: Prado in Madrid, Louvre in Paris. Together with the library, the school and the hospital the museum was established with a clear will of reform. It was supposed to guard and rationally classify our past, saving it from oblivion and bringing us at the same time away from myth and darkness. They aimed at enlightening our society. The way museums organised themselves, the way they structure their functioning organs and their spaces conformed responded to this goal. Clearly, the museum was part and parcel of a society articulated around the notion of public sphere. Public sphere implied discussion, antagonism, accountability of politicians and officers that work for common wealth. It also implied a very specific notion of democracy.

In the last decades we have witnessed, however, such an incredibly growth of the market that it appears to have invaded every single aspect of our existence, to the point that democracy (liberal democracy) is often identified with it. Politicians, civil servants and intellectuals as well are substituted by managers. Governments turn themselves into administrations and Presidents behave as if they were CEOs. The former accountability of elected officers by the people that choose them is now just a vague response of the politicians (the parties, we could say) to a mass which is more a more perceived as shareholders.

In this process consumerism and entertainment became one of the foremost "productive" forces of our society. There was no need anymore to conquer far away lands to discover new products because the new territories were the ones of our own experience, our own daily life. What it is being bought and sold now is experiences and identities.

In this context it is only logical that museums are increasingly conceived as industries, closer to tourism, entertainment and even real estate business than to knowledge structures. In a society dominated by intangible products, their goal might be not longer to educate, but to make numbers match, to produce products and sell them. Public institutions are then in risk to be run as private enterprises: their main goal is not the common wealth and the service to the public, but their own reproducibility. In their attempt to provide new and fresh products to their publics, museums seem to follow the trends of the market. Their strategies are those of marketing and communication is confused with knowledge.

Today more than ever, we should ask ourselves for our objectives and means. Why to collect? What do we collect? Who does establish the criteria? Are museums safeguards of history? But then what history or histories are we writing? Who writes the history and in name of whom? How do we educate? Is education just transmission or rather a space of negotiation?

Speakers & Moderators
Michelangelo Pistoletto - Cittadellarte, Fondazione Pistoletto
Dr. Harald Falckenberg - Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg
Theodora Vischer - Director, Schaulager, Basel
Robert Storr - Commissioner of the 2007 Venice Biennale, Dean of the School of Art, Yale University
Amalia and Dan Perjovschi - CAA/CAA (Contemporary Art Archive/Center for Art Analysis)
Guy Schraenen - The Archive for Small Press & Communication (ASCP)
Claire Hsu - Executive Director, Asia Art Archive
Hans Ulrich Obrist - Co-Director of Exhibitions & Programmes & Director of International Projects, Serpentine Gallery
Dr Julian Stallabrass - Reader Courtauld Institute of Art
Fumio Nanjo- Director, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo
Neil Cummings & Marysia Lewandowska - Artists, collaborating since 1995
Ralph Rugoff - Director of The Hayward Gallery

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