Orientation trips
The Mondriaan Fund organises orientation trips for visual artists and mediators to Asia, Latin America and Africa since 2004. The trips are aimed at exchange and cooperation between visual art professionals.

Bart Rutten director of the Centraal Museum in Utrecht started with a very professional and condensed presentation of the institution (which he likes to call the biggest of the smallest institutions and the smallest of the biggest institutions in Netherland). He gave us some details of the original context and told us about the large panorama of what is exposed in the museum. Then Jannie Haagenmann Senior curator at Contemporary Copenhagen followed. CC is a new space created in 2016. She explained the reasons and needs of such a place dedicated to contemporary art in the capital of Denmark. Some art centers already exist in Copenhagen but they are old and the specificity of the architecture doesn’t offer the optimal conditions for art exhibitions. In the first years, CC hosted solo shows of famous artists as Anselm Kiefer, Pierre Huyghe, Bill Viola, Bruce Nauman, to give a few examples. This quickly gave CC a very good reputation. Finally Johan Gustavsson presented the non-profit space 1646 founded in 1994 and based in Den Haag where he is the Co-Director. He spoke about the general idea of the project: only solos exhibitions, new commissioned works, focus on artistic practices, and taking risks. He closed his presentation by speaking about a website he manages with other colleagues which is gathering a map of more than 1500 “alternative and non-profit spaces” all around the world. alternativeartguide.com
Some of us already did spontaneous talks during the first days to know a bit more about the respectives practices of the others, but this was the occasion to have some better impressions of these three venues. It’s interesting to get informations about art spaces in Europe and to have a direct comparison with UAE art institutions we just explored.

After this brief sharing moment, we quitted the quiet and said goodbye to the nice Bastakiya area where we stayed 4 nights. Theses few days in the UAE gave us an extraordinary overview of the institutional cultural and artistic scene.
A huge cultural platform is actually emerging very strongly in the EAU in different forms: foreign universities with art programs, art museums, art foundations, biennales, galleries... These new spaces are appearing in an extremely fast way and are situated in very different strategic places. Therefore the general impression of theses beautiful constructions could logically generate plenty of reflexions about the reasons for such investments: real passions and honest interests in art, a knowledge about the powers of the culture, economical resources based on an attractive touristic offer, speculations in very valuable artworks, diplomatic arrangements and political deals...
Most of the institutions we visited were incredibly new and very impressive in terms of architecture and infrastructure. Also they demonstrated an interesting variety of foreign artistic positions, in particular in provenance from Pakistan, India and Iran. Visiting theses institutions necessarily brings up questions of how the future of the arts in UAE might look. The geographical situation and the increasing economy of the federation could implicate a potential growing of the population and at the same time a worldwide interest in cultural studies of the country.
During this first part of the trip we met quitte a lot of professionals of the art scene. It was an intense but comfortable way to visit this vertiginous environment. But we didn’t get so much opportunities to explore the daily reality of life of citizens. This would probably have been helpful in order to understand the mechanism behind this entire hidden world.

We head to Dubai airport and flew to Karachi, the biggest city of Pakistan. In the beginning of the afternoon, we were above the Oman Golf. Karachi is around 1200 km away from Dubai.

In the evening we went to Amin Gulgee’s home. Amin Gulgee (b. 1965, Karachi, Pakistan) is an artist and curator living and working in Karachi. He was Chief Curator of the inaugural Karachi Biennale 2017.

Nicolas Raufaste