Beginning in the 1970s, when Peggy Guggenheim bequeathed her art collection and Venetian palazzo to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, the Guggenheim has established a global network of museums that today includes the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin, both of which opened in 1997, in addition to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Other recent endeavors, including our Asian Art Initiative and the BMW Guggenheim Lab, as well as the ongoing planning and development of the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the recent feasibility study for a museum in Helsinki, continue to build on the Guggenheim's distinguished history of internationalism.
The Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative evolved out of an intense institutional self-analysis in which we asked ourselves what it meant to be a global museum today. The museum recognized that because of unprecedented mobility, the expansive reach of cable and satellite television, and the interactive nature of today's primary medium, the Internet, a new understanding of world culture has emerged that is transnational and simultaneous—sometimes even instantaneous: one can experience the immediacy of current events and cultural expressions in a constant stream of information. Ours is a networked society in which separate cultures overlap and commingle in provocative and meaningful ways, and the impulse toward homogenization has been eclipsed by connected and conjoined localities. We asked ourselves, "How can the Guggenheim, with its own early history steeped in European Modernism, become meaningfully transnational? How can we recalibrate what we do—from collecting to exhibition making to educational programming—so that it reflects the multiplicity of cultural practices and their histories around the globe?"
With the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, we are pursuing an active engagement with artists, curators, and audiences in regions around the world that are underrepresented in our permanent collection—South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. Our goal is to catalyze an open exchange among different cultures through curatorial residencies, acquisitions, exhibitions, public programming, and online forums. Over a five-year period we will invite three curators, one from each of these regions, to work at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum for overlapping 24-month residencies. They will share with us their wealth of knowledge about their areas of expertise and propose acquisitions for our permanent collection, which will form the basis for traveling exhibitions and attendant educational activities. We recognize that each of the designated geographic regions is utterly heterogeneous and thus impossible to represent as a whole in any coherent manner. With that difficulty in mind, our guest curators will make a case for how they envision adding to the Guggenheim's collection in the most meaningful and relevant way possible, as well as how they imagine presenting the same material in an exhibition that will travel to their regions of focus. Through Guggenheim UBS MAP, the museum hopes to participate in rather than merely represent cultures around the world and in so doing map out a new art-historical model that is both integrative and contextual.
April 12, 2012