Museum Solidarity

Museum Solidarity is global participatory project involving cultural institutions, an international cultural awareness campaign and series of exhibitions / public events organized in response to the acute political and crisis affecting major cultural institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina. On October 4, 2012, after 124 years of existence, the country’s National Museum closed down due to the government’s failure to secure legal status and adequate funding. Six other state-level institutions, including the National Art Gallery and the National and University Library are also about to become permanently inaccessible to public. The safety of precious artifacts and heritage are at stake.

Reacting to this acute crisis, I conceived the conceptual art project “Museum Solidarity,” which provided the basis for the global “Day of Museum Solidarity – March 4, 2013.” Issuing a public call in February 2013, I called on representatives of museums and galleries worldwide to express solidarity with the threatened Bosnian institutions by participating in a collective action: crossing out one work in their collection with a yellow barricade tape that I sent them. Thanks to many individual and institutional supporters across the world, this public call went viral and grew into a global cultural campaign, which I co-organized and produced in collaboration with members of the platform CULTURESHUTDOWN, an international civic initiative connecting scholars, artists and cultural producers across the world in their attempts to find responses and solutions to this crisis.

Within the scope of the Museum Solidarity, the CULTURESHUTDOWN community grew into a global network that includes over 225 cultural institutions from over 40 countries on 5 continents, encompassing universities, art museums and galleries, national museums and libraries, smaller regional museums, individuals, and major international organizations for museums, CIMAM and ICOM. Our Facebook site has around 850 active followers, but our activities reach around 25,000 people. The media coverage of our press release 8,447 media deliveries, more than 40,000 online “impressions.”

Museum Solidarity project goes beyond activism and political campaign. Cultural institutions in Bosnia-Herzegovina are keepers of the unique historical and cultural treasures that provide evidence of coexistence in the region. Preserving them is crucial for securing a sustainable peace. Artifacts kept in these institutions are an important component of the world’s cultural heritage. Preserving them is a matter of global relevance. the digital and real community that evolved throughout this project is now actively engaged in building a state also creating a discourse about the art of state though a bottom-up state-building process carried out via a a common project, which is to save and envision the country’s national or state-level cultural institutions. The national museum thereby stands for a vision of a joint Bosnia-Herzegovina, home to all ethno-national groups and their common history. Issues of nationalism aside, the key artistic contribution of this project is the envisioning and creating public good within a divided society via a cultural dialogue.
“Museum Solidarity” initiated, conceived and managed by: Azra Akšamija
Organization and production by: Members of the platform CULTURESHUTDOWN: Azra Akšamija, Selma Gičević, Maximilian Hartmuth, Asja Mandić, Jasmin Mujanović, Dietmar Offenhuber, Susan Pearce, Andras Riedlmayer, James Thomas Snyder, Jeff Spurr, Sonja Srdanović, and Mladen Vuković.
Financed by: Azra Akšamija (private), with the Director’s Grant from the Council for the Arts at MIT
Participants: 225 cultural institutions from 40 countries across the globe.
Support by: CIMAM, ICOM, ICOM Hrvatska, Društvo Povijesničara Umjetnosti Hrvatske, e-flux.
CULTURESHUTDOWN logo designed by: Jegan Vincent de Paul.
Many thanks to all individuals and institutions supporting this campaign, especially to Irina Chernyakova, Ljerka Dublić, Toshiro Ihara, Eva Meran, Floor van de Velde, and Zdenka Badovinac.