Dana Andrew is currently attending ICOM’s 23rd General Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is focussing on museums’ ability to work with the content of their collections or research in a creative way to make a positive influence on society. In this post, Dana gives her first impressions of Rio and the beginning of the conference
What can I say; it’s amazing to be in Rio! It’s such a vibrant city, full of the old and new at every turn. Compared with London, it also appears very exotic to me with its beaches, palm trees, and juice bars on every corner.
However, that’s not quite how I would describe the conference venue (Cidade das Artes) and the surrounding neighbourhood (Barra da Tujica), which feels more like Miami with its sprawling malls and endless multi-lane highways. Located in the west of the city, the area’s master plan was designed by the Brazilian architect, Lúcio Costa, the same urban planner of Brasília in the central-west region of Brazil, where a number of significant buildings by famous Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, can be found. Being one of Rio’s safest upper-class neighbourhoods, the area is well known as the home of celebrities and football stars, and will host most of the venues for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games; the first to be held in South America.
Cidade das Artes. © Dana Andrew, 2013.
Cidade das Artes, which opened earlier this year, is an impressive and modern concrete structure by the French architect Christian de Portzamparc, who was also responsible for Cité de la Musique in Paris (one of the forthcoming tour venues for the David Bowie is exhibition). The ICOM conference is hosted here and there are literally thousands of people from all over the world in attendance, from museum directors and curators, to museum security specialists and scientists. The majority of the conference sessions are held here and there are plenty of open spaces for socialising and making new contacts.
My first day at the conference was eventful with most of my time spent navigating the conference timetable, not having a translation headset for the numerous and lengthy opening speeches (in Brazilian Portuguese) and meeting new people at every moment, including getting stuck in a lift for almost an hour with a museum director from Mexico and two of the official translators for the conference. The day ended with a stunning performance by the dance company Carlinhos de Jesus, which presented the history of popular dance in Rio de Janeiro through samba and jongo.
A packed theatre hall of museum professionals standing for the Brazilian national anthem. © Dana Andrew, 2013.
I will spend the next few days with my colleagues from the ICEE committee as we explore ideas about sponsorship and fundraising, working with reduced exhibition budgets, and how to build effective public-private partnerships. We will also visit some of Rio’s renowned museums.