Saturday, 22 October 2016


"Uma menina perdida no seu século à procura do pai", CRINABEL Theatre (image courtesy of National Theatre D. Maria II)

Two years ago, I was questioning here the purpose of festivals that present the art of specific groups of people (gay, black, disabled, etc). It was September 2014 and the second edition of Unlimited festival was taking place at Southbank in London. “I keep questioning myself”, I was writing at the time, “who attends these festivals, exhibitions, activities and what happens after? Do they attract the already ‘converted’ or they appeal to a wider audience? Do gay or disabled or black artists become more acknowledged by the sector and the public? Are they seen as the professionals they are? Are we moving towards an inclusive representation, where they are seen first and above all as artists, or rather curators and audiences still go to see something ‘special’, confined in a specific space and time, its ‘own’ space and time? Do these festivals help us move towards caring more and more about the art and less and less about ‘the rest’?”

Monday, 3 October 2016

Justin Bieber and the fight against islamic extremism

The Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, and the Italian Prime Minister , Matteo Renzi (Photo: Alessandro Bianchi / Reuters, taken from the newspaper The Atlantic)
A recent NPR article, entitled Italy's 'CulturalAllowance' For Teens Aims To Educate, Counter Extremism is a clear demonstration of the confusion existing, at various levels and in various contexts, in relation to access to culture and to culture as a panacea for many ills of this world.

The title is not an exaggeration of the newspaper. It was the Italian Prime-Minister himself who said, when announcing this culture allowance (€500 for every 18-year-old to spend on cultural products), shortly after the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015: "They destroy statues, we protect them. They burn books, we are the country of libraries. They envision terror, we respond with culture."

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Naming the impact: it may be Telmo or Rafael or Gustavo…

Telmo Martins, member of the Orquestra Geração (Photo: Maria Vlachou)

A few years ago, I saw the documentary Waste Land. It is about the work the Brazilian visual artist Vic Moniz created together with garbage pickers at the world’s largest garbage dump, Jardim Gramacho, in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Moniz said that he wished to change the lives of a group of people with the same materials they deal with every day. So, together they used garbage to create large-size portraits of the garbage pickers, which were later sold in auction and the money was distributed among the garbage pickers. The works were presented in exhibitions in a number of contemporary art museums.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016


Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, 2016 (image taken from You Tube)

Having followed the heated discussion regarding the appearance of Muslim women athletes in the Olympics with full-body suits, as well as the ban of the burkini on some French beaches, I find that some facts are – deliberately or not – left out of the equation.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Managing museums: a portuguese case

"Panels of St. Vincent" at NMAA (image taken from the National Museum of Ancient Art Facebook page)

The claim of a new legal status, of a special status, by the National Museum of Ancient Art (NMAA) in Lisbon has resulted in a very healthy debate among museum professionals in Portugal, especially (and unfortunately) after the announcement of the Minister of Culture that this status will actually be given to the museum. Independent of our criticism, positive or negative, of this case and this process, there is no doubt that we owe this very necessary debate to the NMAA, its director, António Filipe Pimentel, and to the entire museum staff*.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Guest post: Social role of museums; new migrations, new challenges, by David Fleming

Photo taken from Twitter @IcomOfficiel

Quote from our MOOC (Massive Open Online Course):

“This course has opened my eyes. Never before thought of museums as being harbingers of change in anything.”

The same person wrote later:

“Yes, my opinion has changed and I’m much more convinced that museums have a positive role to play in achieving and enhancing social cohesion. I had been stuck in my ‘sixties experience of the passive museum, storing items for the mere sake of storage. Today they are put to use to make a positive difference in the world.”

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Guest post: The ethical museum, by David Fleming

Image taken from Twitter @IcomOfficiel
I would like to begin by quoting from Janet Marstine’s book entitled The Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics (2011, page xxiii):

“The traditional museum ethics discourse…is unable to meet the needs of museums and society in the twenty-first century”.

I will continue by quoting the statement on ethical behaviour that my Trustees at National Museums Liverpool (NML) discussed just last week:

NML statement on ethical considerations

In several areas of our work, as we find ourselves more and more reliant on funding from other than our own democratically-elected Government, NML’s commitment to behaving in an ethical manner at all times is leading us to consider carefully what decisions we should make.