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By Foundations for Foundations


Now that you all move into a phase of re-opening we wanted to share some of the insights we have experienced over the last few weeks, especially taking into account that every country has experienced a different lockdown.

Our latest Article highlights what actions have been taken, in the hope that this will help other Art Foundations by fostering the spirit of sharing experiences and expertise. We asked the same questions to each organisation and below are their responses.

Though nothing is so individual as each Art Foundation and its situation, we have tried to find a commonality in the many inspirational conversations we have held and for which we would like to specifically thank:

Artistic Director, Vincente Todolí Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan, Italy, Director, Naomi Potter Esker Foundation, Calgary, Canada, Director, Marti Manen, Index, Stockholm, Sweden, Head of Exhibitions and Audience Development, Clare Feeley, Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh, Scotland and Director, Anne Hilde, Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, Norway.

How we are we managing the re-opening

How is life now that you have re-opened and what were your challenges and opportunities?

At Pirelli HangarBicocca in Italy, Artistic Director, Vincente Todolí said,

“Challenges and opportunities can be the same. First of all, we had to work to minimize the problems of the lockdown: limitations in movements, travel, and transports. At the same time, we had the chance to enhance our digital programmes, enriched by new content, to keep close contact with our visitors’ community and create a digital experience of the museum.”

Index: A space for reading and listening groups with the Art and Distribution summer course.

For Index in Sweden, there was no forced closure, instead, a restriction was put in place, where there must not be more than 50 people at the Foundation at any one time.  Therefore, life has continued, however, all events, lectures, and talks were cancelled.

The major benefit for everyone was that they could still receive visitors. The number decreased compared to the normal footfall, however, the time spent within the exhibition space had noticeably increased.

You could see people really valued the experience. Art is so important at this unprecedented time.”

Director, Marti Manen

Esker Foundation in Calgary, Canada temporarily closed in mid-March to support the efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to help keep our team and visitors safe. The Esker team have all continued to work from home during the last two months until recently returning to the gallery.

They re-aligned their education programs to online delivery, creating two specific series of ‘at home’ workshops:

EYE: Esker Youth Engagement for Youth and teenagers.

Mini Masters at Home for children & families

The team has worked continuously to bring two workshops or art projects per week to their audiences providing continued creative engagement with contemporary art.

Esker Foundation in Calgary, Canada
Jupiter Artland: Charles Jencks: Cells of Life, 2003-2010

It’s been a joy to welcome people back to Jupiter Artland, especially our members, whose support is vital to the work we do. The landscape definitely enjoyed its rest during lockdown so taming it from nature has been a challenge, but one we welcome as the alchemy at Jupiter arises from a connection between artwork and nature. Our peers in Scotland stayed connected throughout lockdown and the sharing of resources and advice has been invaluable in enabling us to reopen with robust safety protocols in place. Opening step-by-step is definitely helpful. For us, we initially opened to our local members only via pre-booked timeslots before extending this to the general public.

Kunstnernes Hus closed on March 13 as per the health recommendations of the Norwegian government.  We re-opened to the public at the earliest opportunity on May 6 and were able to keep to the then- government health recommendations. During the two month period where our staff were working from home, we had to rethink collectively the way we communicated to our audience, both in terms of information and how to make our programme available while we reviewed how to move forward. Our staff did a fantastic job of rethinking the different strategies, coming up with ideas and suggestions. We are now fully open but our cinema can only take a third of its normal capacity to give the recommended distance between the public. Kunstnernes Hus is also a social space that hosts a number of parties, concerts and the like – most of those events are cancelled or postponed, although we’ve managed to host a debate, the opening of our summer exhibition and summer workshops for children during this time.

Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, Norway

How have you changed your curatorial programme?

Esker’s current exhibition with Katie Ohe, opened on January 25 and closed temporarily on March 14, will re-open on July 8.

The exhibition features 6 decades of predominantly kinetic sculptural work by iconic Canadian artist Katie Ohe, the plan is to extend this exhibition by the same amount of time that the exhibition was closed for.

The exhibition will now run until 29 August, re-opening with limited capacity for visitors and with social distancing rules.

Another addition to digital engagement is a video and virtual tour of the exhibition: www.vimeo.com/esker/ohe 

“We are excited to be launching a mini-documentary, a portrait and conversation with artist Katie Ohe due to premiere in July!”

Esker have also adapted their curatorial programme by moving dates forward for the spring/summer exhibitions to the fall. Additionally, moving the fall exhibition to winter 2021.

The exhibition by Anna Gustafson in our street-level Project Space continued to be shown during the time we were closed, and on 17 August we will open a new exhibition in this space of recent ceramic work by artist Kasia Sosnowski

Katie Ohe
Kasia Sosnowski:Sneek-E-Peep’n
Cerith Wyn Evans, “…. the Illuminating Gas”, Curated by Roberta Tenconi and Vicente Todolí

At Pirelli HangarBicocca they revised their programme with the aim of ensuring the continuity of our exhibitions, maintaining the quality of our exhibition projects. As from Saturday 23 May, visitors can enjoy the exhibition by Cerith Wyn Evans “…the Illuminating Gas”, extended until 26 July and the solo show by Trisha Baga “the eye, the eye and the ear” on display until 10 January 2021.

Here at Kunstnernes Hus, we have had to change things around a lot. We opened a solo exhibition of the Norwegian artist Mari Slaattelid a little over a week before the pandemic closed everything down. The exhibition will now stay up now until July 19th. The solo exhibition of Ida Ekblad was due to open a large scale solo summer show in early June, but will be postponed for a full year to June 2021. We are celebrating our 90th anniversary this year, and the events that we had planned had to be rescheduled, the biggest one being a specially composed symphony. The latter was due to be performed in August but is now postponed to November. Written by one of the most interesting young composers in Norway, Øyvind Torvund, and performed by the Norwegian Broadcasting Orchestra, the symphony is a sonic interpretation of our history and architecture. So in short – lots of moving around in the programme, thankfully so far we have not had to cancel anything but just postponed it. We run a very active art cinema, the schedule here is very changed of course but at the moment we have been able to open it with reduced capacity to uphold the meter distance rule.

Mari Slaattelid: Bilde-nettside

Allan Kaprow

At Jupiter Artland, inevitably, for certain commissions, the best decision for the artwork has been to postpone them until next year. That hasn’t necessarily meant a pause, as work on these projects continues unabated! 

Before lockdown, we were poised to open a season dedicated to Allan Kaprow, with invited artists including Andrea Büttner, Cinzia Mutigli, Peter Liversidge and James Hoff creating modern-day reinventions of Kaprow works in response to the current moment and our extraordinary new shared reality. There is a great sensitivity in the breath of approaches adopted by the artists, for instance, making use of FM broadcast and poster distribution, and collaborating with Jupiter’s Youth Council to solicit contributions from teenagers across Scotland during those long weeks of lockdown. Likewise, our learning programme has moved online with Notes from Jupiter, a series of weekly activities for families to explore together at home. Although we fully embrace the creative possibilities of digital platforms for learning, the lockdown has made it even clearer to us how vital our hands-on, the free learning programme is for young people to improve well-being, develop critical thinking skills and discover their own individual inner confidence. As a sector, we must come together to protect these essential programmes for young people.

From June, Index decided to use the exhibition space in a different way. They launched a Summer Course Art and Distribution, organised in collaboration with Konstfack. The course includes 15 students. The space functions as a public workplace during the course, where the participants are integrated into the Index summer program.

Artists have always integrated presentation and distribution methods as part of their artwork and have constantly found new ways to distribute thoughts, ideas and works. How do we think about art and distribution today? How do the terms of distribution define production? Can we expand the duration of a work of art by redefining the idea of when it is ready to be presented?

Francesc Ruiz La Settimana Enigmistica, 2015, Kiosk and publications

Many Art Foundations have joined forces with other local organisations. 

An evident need for solidarity and support has arisen, as well as a desire to show that art in everyday life must carry on.

An exhibition co-produced by Bonniers Konsthall , HangmenProjects , Index – The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation, Mint and SIGNAL. The five art organisations have experimented with a joint project and together have produced the exhibition I Am Not One.

The pandemic is not the theme of this exhibition, but its origin. Through an associative chain of thought, a number of works and artists have been selected by the respective parties. Rather than a concordant curatorial argument, the exhibition can be considered a kind of montage. The works offer angles of approach to the situation we find ourselves in right now. Art is a place for collaborative thinking and it does not back away from what is difficult. Instead of presenting answers or solutions, art allows us to remain with the complicated and paradoxical that permeates our world: existentially, poetically and materially.

Have you implemented any new measures, and to what degree of success have you had?

Pirelli HangarBicocca: was one of the first institutions in Milan that reopened its doors to the public on Saturday 23 May. We worked to ensure the implementation of all safety measures and that works can be properly viewed.

The exhibition spaces, which extend over fifteen thousand square metres, lend themselves perfectly to the social distancing rules, ensuring a risk-free visit. Entry is staggered in number and frequency and the exit is in a separate area in order to prevent gatherings.

The visiting experience, however, has not undergone radical changes and for this reason, we saw respectful and prepared visitors. The first weeks were a test for space with reduced hours, from Saturday to Sunday, to evaluate the new access method, the flow management, and the response of the visitors, and now we are ready little by little to return to the usual opening days.

OSGEMEOS Efêmero Curated by Cedar Lewisohn

Kunstnernes Hus: We have, like many other institutions, found a way to digitally bring art to people where they are, and focused especially on video material, such as online tours of the exhibitions, home-workshops for children, presentations of artists that have their studio in the building. We also set up a home art cinema accessible through our website, where we showed seven films in total, among others a new work by Ed Atkins, Lene Berg’s False Belief, and Jumana Manna’s Wild Relatives. We contextualized some of the viewings with an online introduction, often in the form of an artist conversation. Kunstnernes Hus has a big focus on kids and family activities; the short films with ideas for home-workshops was great at a time where people’s children were in lockdown. We reorganized our staff so that everyone worked on different projects during the lockdown period, including updating our databases and website to include our 90-year exhibition history.

Jupiter Artland: We have introduced time-slot bookings, which have proved highly effective in enabling social distancing. That said, we know that timeslots won’t work for every institution, especially those that are city-based and reliant on passing footfall. Our collection is spread across 120 acres of meadow and woodland and our indoor spaces remain closed until safe to reopen.

Esker: We are pleased to be re-opening to the public on July 8 with limitations on the number of visitors, timed entry, and free booked visits. Social distancing rules will be in effect and we have added audio and video to compliment the visit experience. We are very much looking forward to welcoming everyone back into our space!


Tell us about how you are approaching your digital strategy and whether you have learned anything particularly over the last 3 months?

Explore The Seven Heavenly Palaces 2004-2015 through the Google Arts&Culture Street View

At Pirelli HangarBicocca with the exhibition spaces closed, we had time to focus on our digital strategy, experimenting with new formats. We organize every week digital tours with cultural mediators to Cerith Wyn Evans’ exhibition and to Anselm Kiefer’s permanent installation The Seven Heavenly Palaces 2004-2015 thanks to the Street Views we have developed with Google Art&Culture, and online live workshops for kids.

During the lockdown, there was an even bolder commitment to expanding our selection of digital content. Starting from the #Playlists project, on Pirelli HangarBicocca new profile on Spotify—where artists and professionals share a playlist of their top music preferences—to Hangar Voices, a selection of thoughts, ideas drawn from the contributions of artists, philosophers, critics and curators who, over the last ten years, were involved in the exhibitions and other cultural events of the institution.

We also presented online, in collaboration with artist Trisha Baga, her first video There’s No “I” in Trisha (2005-2007). It was divided into three parts—each one uploaded once a week—like a TV series. The new formats launched will continue in the future and new ideas and further digital evolutions are under development right now.

At Esker we launched a new online art publishing project called: Permanent Collection, we did adapt the launch, instead of launching all the texts at one time we are instead presenting a new essay or text every 2 weeks, with accompanying social media posts that explore the text and content more in-depth, the launches will continue into October. Find the online art publishing project here:  

“For each season of exhibitions, Esker commissions a response from compelling voices within or beyond the visual arts. We ask contributors to reflect on our current exhibitions as a means of generating new ideas about and connections between the artworks from a new perspective. We see Permanent Collection as an expanded exhibition space that explores the points of resonance between and within exhibitions and disciplines. As a non-collecting institution, Esker is defined by the conversations, ideas, and research that emerge around our exhibitions and programming – this is our model for a permanent collection. “

In our social media, we also began a series titled ‘In Common’ for this series Esker team members, volunteers, local artists, and others either invited or by open submission, shared what they have been working on over the last 2-3 months. This took the form of reading poetry, drawing, making crafts, gardening, painting, community art projects, etc. This is a project that we have enjoyed greatly and will continue in the future.

Etienne Zack, Lot, 2016. Archival print collage, acrylic paint, acrylic medium, on watercolour paper. 22” x 30”. Courtesy of the artist.

Due to resources and time restraints Index felt they didn’t want to do anything too quickly.

“We wanted to ensure the content felt real, in line with our ethos, so that people have the opportunity to feel the work and form an emotional connection.”  Marti Manen

They decided to look at other ways to distribute content, for example, podcasts via Spotify. They felt that it was important to maintain the human touch and consider the language.  The Teen Advisory Board as an example, do not use emails, it’s all through Instagram. They wish to have the highest quality possible and embed the structure into their daily work and slowly little by little, it will grow.

At Jupiter Artland our digital landscape has always offered opportunities to be ambitious, to experiment, and to trial new ways of thinking. In that way, digital space is analogous to the extended learning landscape that lies at the core of all Jupiter’s work. Over lockdown, we launched an open-source version of Jupiter Artland on Minecraft, inviting young people to make proposals for new artworks to be added to the permanent collection, whilst also kickstarting a partnership with two of Edinburgh’s Universities on the creation of a new app to improve access and learning around the collection.


Jupiter Artland_Minecraft
Kunstnernes Hus_ Cinema

Here at Kunstnernes Hus we’ve learnt how better reach people internationally with our web channels, the importance of documentation and film (and good editing!), but first and foremost it’s been a very educational and interesting process to think about what the foundation is without our building. Our iconic building, we have come to realise, is at the heart of our self-understanding. So once we take the bricks and mortar away in the sense of closing the building down, it was refreshing and reassuring to see the whole staff’s spirit, a wealth of ideas around how we were able to reach people in this time of crisis. To think about what our role in society is, what art can be in the time of crisis. The whole team has learnt a lot. Our institution is different from many – we are owned by all artists in Norway, and the foundation is built on co-ownership, communal strength and democratic ideals  –  ideals that are so important, both historically, and in this time of change and upheaval.

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