07 October, 15

Urban Development & Contemporary Culture

On 26 September, 2015, a discussion “Urban Development & Contemporary Culture” was held at viennacontemporary 2015 Art Fair within the platform “Keys to Contemporary Art” which was supported by the Aksenov Family Foundation. It was chaired by Lutz Engelke, founder and CEO of TRIAD. The participants were Olivier Gabet, Director of the Musée Des Arts Décoratifs in Paris; Alina Saprykina, Director of the Museum of Moscow; and Alistair Spalding, Director of the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London.

The discussion was devoted to the exchange between cultural activists, representatives of the creative cluster and urban developers. In the last few years, urban development strategies have been strongly influenced by the beliefs of what makes cities desirable in an increasingly globalized economy, where knowledge, creativity and innovation are the driving forces for economic growth. Today, many policy makers believe that in order to prosper cities should be attractive for people. Vibrant cities offering a variety of cultural qualities and creating new systems are the most desirable places to live, consume and produce.

The Museum of Moscow, led by Alina Saprykina, is one of the institutions exploring the originality of the Russian capital and interpreting it, both with citizens and for them. The director noticed that while working over the new museum concept, the main idea she wanted to achieve was finding a way to represent the already existing city identity, along with showing it in dynamics. The Museum of Moscow is one of the oldest city museums in the world, with its collection of over 765,000 exhibits having been put together over the course of 120 years. Many objects have been collected by Moscow citizens, and this involvement is something that the museum aims to maintain and further develop. The institution is becoming a place for the interaction of people with their interests, and is approaching its research of the city and its inhabitants through diverse disciplines – from sociology to contemporary art and fashion.

The main idea she wanted to achieve was finding a way to represent the already existing city identity, along with showing it in dynamics.

As for London, the Sadler’s Wells Theatre has developed a new focus on inter-disciplinary activities that target a very broad audience. Like the Museum of Moscow, this institution has been evolving along with its city over a very long time – the theatre was founded in 1682 and became the second public theatre in London after the Restoration. Its director, Alistair Spalding, said that £141,000,000 had been provided by the mayor of London for the reconstruction of the building, which in scale can only be compared to the construction of the Barbican Center. As for many similar urban projects, the Centre Pompidou, which became a milestone showing the role of the cultural institution in the city and its relationship with the city landscape and its dwellers, was taken as a model. The UK government knows that creative industries comprise about 10% of the national economy, which makes them highly attractive for governmental investments.

Another method of urban development is the importation of structures capable of providing a cultural transformation of the city. As one such example, Olivier Gabet spoke, who was engaged in the Louvre Abu Dhabi project. According to the agreement, the Parisian Louvre must lend part of its collection for a period of 3 months to 2 years. Gabet also explained the difference between this case and the method that the Guggenheim museum uses to sell its brand. First, the Guggenheim cannot be compared with the Louvre in terms of its collection. Secondly, the Louvre’s coming to Abu Dhabi is not a commercial decision, but rather a deal between nations. The agreement, which was conceived after 11 September, 2001, was approved and sanctioned on a political level. Since then, Abu-Dhabi has reconsidered its cultural policy, paying more attention to the cultural development of the emirate and diversifying its resources between educational activities and setting up the museum industry.

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