Milan, substantial closure of Museum of Photography: artists seek clarification

Some 370 artists and insiders have sent a letter to authorities asking for clarification on the current and future situation of the Cinisello Balsamo Museum of Contemporary Photography. The museum's exhibition activities have been suspended since March 2022.

Numerous artists, curators and insiders, totaling about 370 signatories, sent a letter a few days ago, on May 6, asking for clarification on thecurrent and future situation of the Museum of Contemporary Photography - MUFOCO in Cinisello Balsamo.

The same museum wrote in a note published on its official website that as of March 30, 2022, the museum would suspend, by resolution of the MUFOCO Board of Directors, its exhibition activities, adding that "the decision is part of the process of institutional transformation that the museum is going through, connected to the broader broader project of the birth in Milan of the National Museum of Photography wanted by the Ministry of Culture and Triennale Milano, in collaboration with the Lombardy Region and the historical Founders Municipality of Cinisello Balsamo and Metropolitan City of Milan.“ The note went on to say that ”in this transitional phase the outgoing Board of Directors has decided to suspend the exhibition activities open to the public, while the study and consultation of the photographic and book heritage and educational activities at the Museum’s specialized library and photographic archive will be guaranteed with access by appointment."

Almost two months later, however, the situation has not changed, and the signatories, including renowned photographers such as Olivo Barbieri, Gianni Berengo Gardin, Mario Cresci, Guido Guidi, Mimmo Jodice and Francesco Jodice, and operators in the world of photography such as Elisa Medde of Foam and Renata Ferri of Rcs, have therefore sent the letter to the Minister of Culture Dario Franceschini, the President of the Museum of Contemporary Photography Foundation Giovanna Calvenzi, the President of the Milan Triennale Stefano Boeri, the President of the Lombardy Region Attilio Fontana, the Mayor of the Metropolitan City of Milan Giuseppe Sala and to the Mayor of Cinisello Balsamo Giacomo Ghilardi.

Following is the text of the letter.

"More than a month has passed since the communiqué announcing the temporary suspension of the exhibition activity of the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Cinisello Balsamo. Those lines have not been followed by any further communication: no clarification on the process of institutional transformation of the Museum, no information on the project of birth in Milan of the National Museum of Photography.

As a community of artists, photographers, curators, insiders, enthusiasts, and citizens close to MUFOCO, finding out that the Museum would suspend its exhibition activities from one day to the next, with no indication of reopening, surprised and bewildered us. The bewilderment of the early days, abetted by the silence of these weeks, became a serious concern for the fate of this cultural institution.

MUFOCO, a unique public museum in Italy, has proven over the years to be a point of reference for photographic culture and research by organizing exhibitions, conferences, workshops, educational moments and promoting important study publications and catalogs. For artists and photographers it is vital, essential. The Museum has offered valuable opportunities to grow artistically through exhibitions, projects, assignments. Accomplice also to its marginal, frontier location, it has been possible to conduct paths devoted to artistic research and linguistic experimentation. But the Museum is also central for Italian and foreign scholars thanks to its collections and its book heritage; it is valuable for the public, which through the Museum’s exhibitions and initiatives has come into contact with the most significant research and practices in the world of contemporary photography; and it is fundamental for the citizenship of the territory, which has been able to benefit from an authoritative cultural offer in a decentralized and peripheral context.

It should be recalled that the Museum preserves an extraordinary patrimony composed of more than two million black and white and color prints, slides, negatives, videos, and installations by more than a thousand Italian and foreign authors divided into funds such as “Archive of Space,” “Gabriele Basilico,” “Lanfranco Colombo,” “Idea of Metropolis,” and “Grazia Neri,” which refer to important commissions and figures fundamental to the history of Italian and international photography. In addition, the Museum’s Library includes about 20 thousand volumes: monographs by the main authors of international historical and contemporary photography, catalogs of solo and group exhibitions, theoretical and historical texts, and collections of Italian and foreign magazines. It is a constantly evolving, regularly growing, contemporary-conscious heritage; a heritage that many of us, too, have continued to enrich over the years through acquisitions and commissions.

Its substantial closure is a blow to artists, photographers, scholars, practitioners, the public and citizens. A public museum closing its doors is never good news.

Therefore, deep concern about the future of MUFOCO prompts us to write to you, because there are numerous issues left unexplained. We would first like to have information about the new National Museum of Photography. Is there a real project, on what scientific basis does it rest, and which operators and scholars are carrying it out? What will be the timeline and modalities for its concrete realization? We are puzzled to note that there is no transparency on these issues and no information can be found on such an important and ambitious public project. And what will become of MUFOCO, its important collection, its archives, its library holdings? Will there be continuity between MUFOCO’s activities and those of the new National Museum of Photography? How will workers who have demonstrated important skills and professionalism over the years be relocated? We also ask that, in this transitional phase, MUFOCO be allowed to continue its exhibition activities.

In a context like the current one, where the visual is increasingly present in people’s lives, reflections and research around contemporary photography-in its various meanings-become central, unavoidable. Leaving the Metropolitan City of Milan orphaned, for an unspecified period, of an institution that has steadily carried out investigations on this language, seems a poorly understandable choice for a territory that wants to present itself as a creative capital and play an international role in contemporary culture."

Milan, substantial closure of Museum of Photography: artists seek clarification
Milan, substantial closure of Museum of Photography: artists seek clarification

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