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It takes a bit of driving around to find Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemoráneo, (CAAC) which is a bit strange since it is an old monastery and a quite specific place. It’s situated in the centre of Seville, but still outside. As the gallerist Julio Criado put it during our visit in his gallery later the same day: It’s actually very central but often perceived as being outside of the city.
It’s on the other side of the river Guadalquivir and in the very same area that 1992 hosted the Universal Exposition of Seville (Expo ’92), an Expo of 215 hectares land and with 41 million visitors between April to October. The signs left now are – what seems for us as we drive around looking for the monastery – empty buildings and fenced areas. And behind white steel rods around the monastery and its gardens, we finally find it.
CAAC opened in 1998 in Monasterio de Santa María de las Cuevas with the aim of being a place devoted for Andalusian contemporary art. Art tradition in Seville, we are told, is that many artists are painters and within the Baroque tradition. The 80s is described as an interesting period in Seville, where the art scene (at least this is one way of understanding this period) hooked on to the era and buzz around film-maker Pedro Almodóvar and his often both provocative and controversial films on topics around sex and violence, religion and people in the margins of society. CAAC is aiming to put such an art discussion back on the agenda.
Walking around the garden, you see this ambition in the interesting, humouristic, and yet serious art interventions placed around the precincts. The Bus stop by Pedro Mora, Alicia by Cristina Lucas, and As a monument to the Artist by Curro Gonzales, are among some of them; the last one being an ironic commentary on the controversy around artists since Romanticism – and a very current such. In the temporary exhibition inside, Chilean performance artist Lotty Rosenfeld, stands out.
Luisa Espino, Coordinator of Exhibitions, tells us about the ambitious program, with temporary and permanent exhibitions, educational programs, music and art in the garden, seminars and conferences, and not least the publications 11 to 21 on the themes of the conferences and exhibitions.
Unfortunately CAAC has seen severe cuts in funding due to the Spanish economic situation that makes it difficult to keep the high ambition. The publications have, as a consequence, been closed down. For now, that is. The hopes are to be able to pick it up again. But the cuts are a bit like stepping back in time. A bit like being back on square one where it all started.
Gallerist and owner of the Gallery Alarconcridao, Julio Criado, talks about the art situation from another perspective.
Interestingly, the gallery is just one street from the famous bull arena in central Seville, Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza. Cultural heritage right next door to the new upcoming artists. Julio Criado sees an art market in change, where you have to find other ways than the traditional to find the buyers and the market. Also the artistic scene is changing, where a fairly traditional art education is not educating the most interesting artists. Instead he finds the most interesting work done by artists educated within other disciplines.
The first photo: Alicia by Cristina Lucas. The second: As a monument to the Artist by Curro Gonzales. Listen to the fanfare in the last piece here: artist fanfare. The last piece is the Bus Stop by Pedro Mora.
”We” in this blog are a group of five educators, consultants, and actor within art, entrepreneurship, art management from Germany, Austria, UK and Sweden, who formed a small think tank a few years ago to meet once a year and exchange experiences and ideas. This year a smaller group of three of us met in Seville on July 12–16. During the meetings we discuss, have workshops, exchange ideas, meet people within arts and culture, and just enjoy ourselves.
The last issue of the Economist (June 15–21st) brings up the topic of the tremendous cuts in art funding that we’ve seen in UK the last few years.
The viewpoint in the article is from Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, an art centre opened in 2002 in one of the abandoned mills along the river Tyne in NorthEast England. The Baltic was a former flour mill opened in the 1950s and closed in 1981. The transformation to a significant art center was led by (Swedish) founding director Sune Nordgren and cost 50 million pounds, money coming from mainly the National Lottery Fund, Arts Council, the region, and European Union.
We’ve seen it in many places all around Europe and elsewhere; industrial ruins become art centres, galleries, art studios, incubators within arts and culture.
The Italian Professor of Cultural Economics (IULM University, Milan), Pier Luigi Sacco, calls this process by a name: Culture-led local development processes or System-Wide Cultural Districts. He uses Newcastle as one example of culture-led local development processes in is his paper Culture as an Engine of Local Development Processes: System-Wide Cultural Districts (2008).
P L Sacco argues that art and culture is an important base for local development. If the right energy and mix of cross-boarder cooperation from the cultural scene, business community, authorities, and money are there, a positive local development can take place.
But as the article in Economist notes, it’s hard to measure the payback of money spent on art and culture, and it’s difficult to justify art spending to the larger group of tax payers.
”The truth is that the economic value of art is often as hard to quantify as its social or aesthetic benefits. That makes it vulnerable to cuts in tough times”, the article argues.
UK is one of the European countries that has cut the art budget with as much as, some figures note, 40%. This means less money to artists within all artforms, closing down many of the regional offices promoting art and culture, less money to the Art Council, and so forth. Regrettable but perhaps inevitable, Economist states. Money needs to be secured from other funding resources, mainly private.
It’s a problem on many levels. The lack of methods to properly measure effects of art and culture is one. Another is funding. Experiences show that private funding might be easier to find for building icon buildings, but is not a reliable source of income for production of art.
If new large cultural icons such as Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art are to be able to bring tourists and have an effect on the overall economy, and in time pay back the investment to the local community; visual and conceptual artists, film-makers, handicraft artists, designers, musicians, poets, and others are needed to fill these large buildings with content.
Whose responsibility are their working conditions?
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