Aaron Cezar on
The Delfina Foundation, His Art Journey,
The Ecosystem of the Art World,
Nurturing artists, The Arts with Politics,
Performance Art as Historical Documentation
Our Right to feel Represented in Art Institutions
Delfina Foundation feels like a home, an art hub, a think tank, an art residency yes, but a home too, one made in art.
It’s down to a mixture of things, the warm welcome Aaron Cezar gives to all that head into the space that’s nestled in a corner between two streets behind Buckingham Palace, its integrity to pursue Delfina’s theory of “collecting artists, not art”, and the loyalty the resident artists and patrons feel towards the foundation.
An afternoon talking with Aaron Cezar founding director of the Delfina Foundation, is a thrilling afternoon in the realm of trying to reshape the world into one that is compassionate and reflective.
And just before we dived deep into our conversation of art and politics, Aaron noticed I had two phones recording-one as back up.
We don’t have a back up world, (or for some maybe we don’t yet), but even if we did, this world in which we all inhabit is in need of some more love, care and attention. Good thing I’ve come to the Delfina Foundation to see how they help artists articulate emotions which feed off into the world, making us reflect on issues.
Could you share with us a little bit about your background, how you arrived at Delfina and what drew you to art?
I grew up in a very rural Louisiana. I’m Creole and what’s very evident in Creole culture is the spirit of a place but also internal spirits, so people are very quick to sing and dance at a drop of a hat.
The context in which i grew up in is one of a rich culture and everyone performed. At the same time it being rural, I had very little exposure to what we would call fine arts, classical dance and classical music. I also grew up before the internet. As a result, I read a lot and I experienced culture through reading. Where I grew up was 10 miles away from the nearest town were the library was but there was a bookmobile that would come and serve the rural communities. I read almost every single book there and it was kind of like my access into art, culture, literature, forensics, psychology and into everything that I read on that bookmobile. As I read so much, I became knowledgable about the world beyond mine and I sought that out as soon as I had the possibility of going to university.
I went to Princeton and did a major in economics and a minor in dance. My way into visual arts was via performance.
At Princeton I took a course with the writer Toni Morrison and the director of the Kennedy Centre, Michael Kaiser, who was then the head of the Royal Opera House in London.
I was really confused as to what journey I should take before me, since I studied both economics and dance. I was advised that If wanted to work within the arts I should get a broad based set of management skills. So for a few years, based in New York i went into consulting. It was in health care, so it was actually a social issue, saving community hospitals and helping to decrease the length of stay of patients. The work involved different projects that had a meaning. Although it was effectively a very corporate context but it was also about saving community infrastructure and to me that had a real affinity to the arts. So I went into consulting knowing that I would go into the arts.
That this path would lead into your art journey
In 2002 I moved to London to do a master's in Creative and Cultural Industries, bringing together everything I had learnt. Part of this course was a module on Visual Culture so through the course I began to engage with art history and the visual arts and I started producing projects with a number of artists. The real transition happened there. Going from dance into the visual arts resulted in thinking about performance in a different way.
That was your time at King's College?
Yes, It was the first course on the Creative and Cultural Industries in the UK; a really groundbreaking course. I didn’t just want to do arts, I wanted to do different types of media and a transdisciplinary practice in the wider sense.
After producing a number of projects, I met Jude Kelly, who is now the artistic director of the New South Bank Centre, she was then running an artistic laboratory space in North London that had residencies. I worked with her for 5 or 6 years as well as on the London Olympic bid as part of my engagement with Jude because she had become Chair of Culture for the London 2012 bid. Following that, via an artist I met Delfina. At that point in 2007, Delfina at the age of 80 years old was setting up a new foundation, The Delfina Foundation. We got on like a house on fire even though we were divided by 50 years. Through conversations we had, i wanted to understand if it was about her or about the artist. And it was absolutely about the artist. She doesn’t collect, she doesn’t have an art collection.
That’s unique for someone who starts an art foundation
Absolutely unique. She says “I collect artists, not art”. For her, setting up this new foundation at 80 years old was a huge risk but she had been travelling at that period on personal trips around the Middle East and North Africa and felt it was required.
People knew her name because 20 years prior to starting Delfina Foundation, she had a space called Delfina Studios which had become very prominent with more than a dozen Turner prize nominees who had started their careers at Delfina Studios. Artists like Mark Wallinger, Tacita Dean, Glenn Brown and Susan Hefuna.
Many artists had asked her why she had closed the Studios and explained to her that they needed her. Especially in the context of the time, it was difficult for a number of artists from the Middle East and North Africa to get visas. It was a few years post 9/11 and it seemed super complicated between the region and the rest of the world. It felt like it was a culture of "them and us" or "us and them" and then the artists were stuck in the middle. But these are the people who can be the link between.
The artists can be a bridge
Yes and Delfina saw this as a good enough reason to set up the foundation at 80 years old.
We had challenging conversations, sometimes it was very heated but it was always fun with a lot of back and forth. She then invited me to take on the role as Director and that’s how I ended up here.
It’s a very distinctive way of being in the art world. And especially now, to keep that philosophy intact when art has become much more of a commodity. For the Delfina Foundation to invest in artists and not art, it also means that you are investing in time. You are giving the artists time to make mistakes, time that technology with social media for instance has almost taken away from us. The artists must really appreciate that, do you see that value of what time can bring within their work?
I think what the residencies do is build confidence for the artist. They even select it for this opportunity. Furthermore, they are living in central London, it’s an incredible home for artists. They get amazing support to help develop their network, their practice and their ideas. We are here to cultivate their personal development.
Partly we are conditioned, because Delfina does not collect so the pressure on the object is not there. When you take that off the artists, you put them in a space where they have the possibility of really dreaming because there’s not the pressure of time.
And maybe the biggest luxury today is time. We all have become used to instant gratification, that having and taking the time to reflect is not always there or possible.
Exactly, so they can go deep into issues and ideas, they get lost, they come out, they lull over things, they pursue an idea, they don’t know why they are pursuing this particular idea but they find out soon afterwards. Therefore the outcome of the projects have been much more rewarding, precisely because they have had this open brief, this open opportunity.
We also value the fact that if they just come here and have more confidence in speaking english or if they develop a highly sophisticated outcome, to us, both of those things are successes. People often ask, how do you judge success? And I think we judge it on a case by case basis and we know that the outcomes aren’t always going to be immediate. Sometimes you have to wait four or five years before you see how the experience of the residency has resulted in new work, new ideas or new paths for the artists. Maybe at first the experience doesn’t lead to anywhere, it’s still being absorbed and processed. So yes the gift of time is very important.
Is one of the foundation’s objectives to nurture artists into having time to cultivate a deeper meaning behind the visual aspect of art?
Yes but to expand on this a little bit more, we see it as the foundation developing the practice and philosophy of artists whilst also supporting the whole ecosystem around it. For us it is also important to support curators and writers. We even have residencies for collectors. We really think about the whole ecosystem of art and we see our role as being a kind of facilitator, that bridge as it were. As a result of that, partnerships and our patrons are very important to us, it’s an extension of the network, an extension of the family.
It is a big family at Delfina, there have been many residencies over the years
It is, over the last 10 years we have supported 300 residencies, a mix of artists, curators and collectors.
We have helped enable a lot of opportunities for artists that are now circulating in the art world. Wael Shawky’s first London solo show was at Delfina Foundation, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme had their first residency with us, we showed their first works here and now they have won the Abraaj prize and are collected at MOMA. These artists are really going far in their careers and they are just in their early 30s.
There are too many artists that have come through the Delfina Foundation to mention them all, but when we look at the names, it’s now like a who’s who of the contemporary art world. That may be luck of the draw once or twice but for it to continuously be the case, there must be an expertise and the way you nurture the artists behind this.
So I guess two questions come to mind, how do you choose the artists, because though you want to give them time to dream, how do you know who to choose, what is it exactly that you look for in an artist?
And two, can you talk about some of the artists that you think may have had an impact at and on The Delfina Foundation.
Both are really interesting questions. I get asked a lot on how the artists are selected, I guess I think a lot about our role, between hosts and guests. Because we are a home.
In hospitality is the word host and there are two ways it can develop, one is hostility, the other is hospitality.
This quote comes from Abbas Akhavan, who is one of our former resident artists. I’m not sure where exactly he got it from or if he made it up himself, but it is the actual genealogy of the word, it splits into these two separate camps. And at Delfina, we really think about our roles as hosts and what we can do for the artist and then where they are in their journey.
We are always questioning if the artist is at a tipping point in their life or in their career, what this residency will do for them and can we provide a stepping stone for that next stage in their career.
I think that’s why when we look back at the list of artists that we have had in residence, they have had a trajectory, because we either put the stone right in front of them or we gave them the resources, the confidence, the networks where to next place their foot.
We’ve also had artists who are really young if we feel like they have a grasp of their practice and they have or they can build a support system around them in their next stage of their career but they may need help with their development.
We also look for different types of mediums, we don’t always focus on the same one. Our current curation of the program looks at our collective not exclusively at the individual. Of course we do look at the individual artist but we think about them as a collective, because 8 of them will be in residence in this house at any one time.
Untitled (Fountain) (2012), produced at House 44 in collaboration with Art Dubai, DCAA and Tashkeel
Art works by Abbas Akhavan from the Delfina Foundation website
So do they have to all get on? Or merge well together?
They don’t all have to get on. We try to think about what the dynamics will be like in their group, what conversations will they have, will one inspire the other, will one challenge the other, are they introverts or are they extroverts. Literally we are thinking about this as a community, as people who are living in this house.
I can picture on this desk in the Delfina Library, portraits of the artists spread out like the Art X Factor
That would be funny! Doing this as a project...like we are going to create a band!
Yes an Art band!
You know some of these relationships that go through the residency last for life. I know that with the artists many still remain friends. The artists Tacita Dean and Thomas Demand’s residency at Delfina Studio’s back in the 90s were close to each other, they still are life long friends and until this day their studios in Berlin are in approximation to each other. This is career defining.
There’s not one answer to your question, but it’s identifying where people are in terms of their career, the cross roads in front of them and whether we can provide a path for them. We very much think of it as a whole community and I think that’s why it has been successful. When I talk to a lot of the artists, they’ve all fed that back.
You are giving opportunities to people who may not know how to find their art world or have the means economically to keep up their craft. When we look at the History of Art, a lot of artists moved in groups and they fed off each other. The residency feels like a chance to group and like you say find a family within the art world.
Yes and like a family they look after each other. For a lot of artists who came to do a residency at Delfina Foundation, they may come from a background that’s kind of like where I grew up, completely rural and disconnected and then they find themselves to be part of a global family. It can really be enriching for them and for their career.
Their time at the Foundation can be part of what education does
Absolutely. The way in which we work as an organisation, is that we think of our partners, our patrons and all of the family as part of one network. We have activities like Family Lunch where every two weeks we will invite collectors, artists, curators and institution directors to eat together. Our artists often cook and present their work during that time. It’s a soft learning opportunity for them to know how to pitch and talk about their work.
It’s also an opportunity for our guests to learn what the artists are interrogating in their work and from that often a support system emerges. It becomes a sharing opportunity and for the artists to look beyond Delfina. If you are from an isolated place and you come to somewhere like London, you need someone to help you navigate and to connect you, you have to have access to people and people have to see you. Ultimately, it’s about exposure and we curate that exposure for the artists and use our own reputation that has been developing for over 30 years as a way of opening up opportunities for artists.
Breaking down the barrier between collector and artist, that’s not necessarily a given in the art world. That has now come into the residency, you have collectors living with artists. How did that idea come about?
It came about through our Family Lunches and creating these gatherings of different parts of the art world. Over these lunches I began to really see the conversations between artists and collectors and they weren’t based on any kind of agenda. They were just having lunch. But I started to notice the shared interests in around the psychology, philosophy of what we are all doing in the art world, but also recognising that the art world operates because of artists and collectors. Anything else in the middle is to help facilitate, sometimes divert attention, but to help mitigate that relationship. And I thought why don’t we take a context where there was no mitigation, it is the artist and the collector in a space with unmoderated conversations and that was the beginning of it. That was the first premise of it, the second premise was creating a space to reflect on collecting as a practice, creating a space where collectors can look at the research they undertake, the themes, the narratives they try to tell and also to look at the challenges of collecting. We are moving to an age where media alert has become much more diversified and video art or ephemeral performance more at the forefront of the art world, so I started to think, could we create a program where we looked at these mediums in a way that defy collecting.
Yes because collecting a performance is not straightforward
There are ways that we’ve learnt about doing this, because we’ve bought in collectors who are at the forefront of thinking about this type of work. One of the roles of the program was to create a support platform to put them in conversation with gallerists, museum directors and artists and discuss the challenges that they are encountering.
To me, the collector’s residencies operate like a curatorial residency. It’s based around research, it’s about knowledge, gathering, production and also about exposure. It’s exposing what they are doing in the specific context of which they work to audiences here. For example we invited Lu Xun a collector from Nanjing China, who with his father has built 25 buildings by some of the world’s leading architects, before they became leading architects. It is as if he has a collection of architectural buildings. He also has a private museum where he collects contemporary art. What they are doing in Nanjing is so ambitious but virtually unknown to some parts of the art world and to many in London. Bringing him here and exposing the work they are doing in China to the art community at Delfina was eye opening.
The approach of developing architectural projects is very similar to commissioning art. That kind of ambition there, in terms of thinking about the long term, was a great opportunity to understand that the collector has to accept the waiting. Sometimes they have to wait for the technology to reach up to the level of the actual construction process. Only when we had a proposal for architecture, we began to realise this. Really radical thinking around this subject and for us to expose the work of this young collector who is 33 years old to other young collectors or people finding their way into collecting, opens minds to different avenues.
It feels like the collector’s residency also parallels what Delfina was saying about the fact that she collects artists and not art. It’s as if the Foundation was saying, ok now instead of collecting becoming more and more business like and instead of The Delfina Foundation in turn becoming commercialised, you know what, we at Delfina, are kind of right in how we see the meaning of art, collectors come join us!
That’s a great analysis, because one of our starting points is Delfina. If you think about it, what is a collection, if you say I collect artists, what is an actual collection? Is the collection the objects? Is it the knowledge that was developed in order to produce that object? Or is it the people who produced it?
That makes us think a little about collecting performance. That took us down that trajectory; looking at individuals who are all interested in the relationships with art, individuals who would be prepared to live in this house alongside artists, to have chats late at night in the kitchen or on the terrace smoking or even chopping up vegetables for lunch. It’s those kind of individuals who see themselves as more than collectors but see themselves as activist, as patrons, as conservators, as commissioners, as curators and not be solely defined as a collector. We call it collector just to make a political point.
With the residencies at Delfina the art is viewed as more than just art and collectors are beyond just being collectors. How much can art be more than just the visual aspect of it? Because to some extent it is. How political can art be? And can art change things politically?
I think it absolutely is political. But I think there are different types of art, there is the art that is completely object based, like something placed over the sofa, that to me is more design based, like a commodity or enjoyable art. Then there’s art that is really based around process and that process could still be something you would put over your couch but there’s a bit more conceptual vigour to the production of that work and even the reception of that work.
Art is a process. Completely and totally. Because it’s about the engagement we have with that work. Of course we are seeing it but we are absorbing it in very different ways because we each come with our own cultural capital, our own emotional baggage, our own way in which we form meaning and how we understand things. One thing that is rubbish to you, might be brilliant to me.
Art does have the power to be kind of transformative, but it’s not the sole source of transformation. Art can affect change by being a linchpin, it can sometimes be a visual trigger.
But I do think that societal transformation and change needs a lot more players involved. That is one thing that we try to do here at Delfina Foundation with our programs. One of our programs, The Politics of Food aimed to bring together the art world with nutritionists and academics to rethink the production, consumption and distribution of food. Policy is what drives government and practice and sometimes you have policy makers that are disconnected from the community. That’s where I think art can give some kind of visual stimulus to issues than simply be about a pretty picture or a horrific picture.
The photojournalist image of Aylan Kurdi, the boy on the beach who tragically drowned, was the trigger that suddenly made everyone talk about the migration crisis. So an image can suddenly have an impact on people and get them really alarmed. An image can really pull people into thinking this is an issue we need to address. It may also impact us only for the short term.
Some artists are looking at provoking things for the long term. I am thinking about Ahmet Öğüt who created The Silent University, which is a project that he developed through a residency at Delfina in collaboration with the Tate.
It’s a carte blanche residency, you can do anything you want to do but it has to engage an audience and he decided back in 2011 to work with asylum seekers and migrants at the Tate. The Silent University has now popped up in Paris, Berlin Stockholm, and other cities, engaging this very valued part of society and the knowledge that migrants and asylum seekers bring to the country they settle in but are unable to offer or act on that knowledge because of barriers. Maybe it’s a language barrier, maybe it’s legal barriers, maybe it’s because of their status of being migrants and asylum seekers so they can’t work for instance as a scientist yet, as they don’t have the employment status for where they are. It’s a loss to society until they have the freedom to do so.
Ahmet’s project is a very long term one. This art project doesn’t necessarily have super visuals per outcomes, it is all about the process within it. A photojournalist work has no process to it but its triggers may set about a process.
The Silent University is an autonomous knowledge exchange platform initiated by artist Ahmet Ögüt in collaboration with Tate.
Picture from Delfina Foundation website.
Ai WeiWei photographed himself as the little boy on the beach, many appreciated the artwork for highlighting the tragedy and also because it could be about stating that “we are all Aylan Kurdi”, that this could be any one of us, others may have been surprised by seeing it being reproduced.
That’s the tricky part about art and politics. Where does appropriation start and end. What does appropriation mean in that context. In some way you can argue that Ai WeiWei and his celebrity status brings more awareness to the tragedy and to addressing migration, but at the same time the power of that image without Ai WeiWei doing it could also be sufficient. For some audiences he is actually communicating issues that need addressing, so it cannot be dismissed. And the circulation of his work is bringing more people into the conversation.
But what are we all doing about it, because the art world can quickly become a place of fake radicality and often it is. Whether these issues are discussed through an exhibition or through a panel discussion, that’s often where it stops. No one actually then looks at the infrastructure of the world around us or looks at the art institutions themselves. We are quick to stage a Middle Eastern show or an all women show to talk about inequality in the art world but actually is anyone looking at the institution’s infrastructures? Or trying to change the boards or the advisory groups?
One exhibition is not going to solve the problem, it’s about bringing other people around the table. So I do think that art transforms and is a tool to bring people around a table. But it’s not the only one.
There needs to be other disciplines to interact and intermesh with each other
And that’s the main problem, sometimes the art world is talking to itself
Maybe the problem is that any one type of world, even in politics, each world is in its own bubble
So we think about how do we create a space that’s truly transdisciplinary.
I don’t mean sculpture and fine art coming together, I mean bringing elements in of science, technology and nutrition.
Technology, social media and the Web seem to have enabled different disciplines to if not come together, be more aware of each other. What is your opinion on technology?
I do think there is a lot more to explore around technology.
One of the problems though, is the rapid pace as to which it is evolving. That’s why I think we haven’t yet got a handle on exactly how much more we can capitalise on it being a transdisciplinary medium. Because it is constantly changing at such a fast pace, some people are being left behind.
The effect of social media and the access to technology has made us expect everything at a rapid pace. At Delfina Foundation there is time for ideas behind the visual to emerge from conversations amongst artists.
Today we have short attention spans. Unless there is a strong curiosity that shifts our attention, we may only want to look into things we already think we like. At Delfina, we want the artists to have conversations and develop ideas with a wide group. So we shifted the Foundation from just being geographically focused on the Middle East and North Africa to encompass all continents and regions of the world.
We had that shift for the sole purpose of putting different regions in dialogue with each other around common issues. Sometimes, when you work on one specific region you immediately focus on the differences. Cultural exchange then becomes based around that rather than on similarities. so we thought actually, we would rather focus on common practices, common beliefs, common issues, common questions that we are all facing globally as a society. What the Middle East encounters is not so different to what other regions are encountering. It may be in different times or about different things, but we all go through similar things at one point in time. So at Delfina, we shifted to a thematic focus.
And there are several themes such as Strategic Histories, The Public Domain, as well as The Politics of Food. How did they come about?
I was trying to identify relevant topics that we felt had some resonance over a long period of time but that also needed to be interrogated by audiences and other types of practitioners. When we decided to go with having a thematic process, we had a conversation with a number of curators. One person asked me, how do you stop this from becoming about trendy themes? My response was that we will do the themes multiple times; we will go deeper and deeper into the issues. Some themes when we started, like the Politics of Food were super popular. It wasn’t just us, there were a lot of practitioners working on food at that point.
We kept at it and are still continuing with it, and i’m sure other practitioners are too. We don’t see this theme as a trend or as fashionable because actually there’s so much more to explore within the context of politics of food.
It’s similar with other themes, we are going really deep into them and as an institution being the repository of the knowledge; Because often what happens in residencies, is that the artists experience a context or work with a certain community and then they leave. At best they leave traces of the process behind, they may influence or set in motion a transformation but ultimately they will take that information back. So the thinking was, how can we as an institution be the repository of knowledge, share it across both artists and communities and be an active agent in the process involved in the discourse and not just be a facilitator or a host of providing accommodation food and travel cards.
We got to think about the residency more as a think tank. We are also surrounded by them, we are next door to the Royal Family, not far from the offices of the Government, of the Ministry of Justice and so many organisations around us in this area. So we are more like an art think thank and we think about our work in that context. Increasingly we are beginning to shift over and trying to embrace more people from outside the art world into some of the dialogue, the dialogue that is happening here where we ourselves are sometimes in a little bubble.
At Delfina you were one of the early ones to embrace Performance
As a residency space dedicated solely to that, absolutely. There have been and are some great institutions that we have partnered with.
Now Performance Art is growing and accepted as a norm in the art world but Delfina Foundation decided early on to create a space for it
Yes because it’s kind of the cinderella of the arts. It was always very popular to have performance as eye candy at art fairs but actual support to artists to do the research in this art form was not so common, as performance is not cheap and it’s not easy, it takes time. And so we wanted to create a residency for artists to think of performance in the wider sense, from daily rituals to religious rights and to look at it within the context of society.
One of the first major shows we did that was part of that program was one I curated at the Hayward Gallery Project Space. The project called Staging History looked at the genealogy of performance and art in the Arab world. There is no word in Arabic for Performance Art, for performance there is a word, but not Performance Art itself as a concept. Yet it still has become communalised in the last few decades and popular among the artists in the Middle Eastern region. So we have to ask, where is the genealogy of it? I suppose there is theatre, there are rich histories of theatre and dance in the region but how does Performance Art sit in relation to all those sort of things.
And in a way to understand or examine what differentiates it?
There are very very blurry lines in regards to this and it’s something that still remains blurred to this day. We did two exhibitions that looked at the history of Performance not only from the Arab world but in relation to other parts of the world. As part of this exhibition we had some artists from China to see things in relation to their country but also in relation to politics. How performance is a way of marking, recording and rewriting history. That was ultimately the aim of the project, to look at how performance is a way of documenting history.
We where talking before about the obstacles of collecting Performance Art since it is not something you can hang on the wall, it’s not always there, but if we think about it, an oil painting disintegrates itself, we are the ones brushing over it, painting over it, trying to fix it, so actually maybe all art is supposed to disappear and be left as a memory.
The way we think about the nature of the residencies are as a part of our think tank and that brings along a very diverse prognostic to look at things. The memory of the artworks live on.
Another aspect for that is Publishing. It is very important to us and I would like to start developing it thematically, with a Politics of Food book, Collecting as Practice book, basically using our programs as a starting point to look at the discourse going forward. Documentation of what we have done but one that also looks forward. It’s an area around publishing we are very interested in.
Where do you see the future of the art world going to?
The art world in general, wow, we are facing so much, it depends on how you look at the whole world. In the UK, we have Brexit coming, what does that mean, what does it mean for public funding and what is it going to mean for the art market in London. We have the proliferation of art fairs which have really started to crush galleries and as much as we are kind of distant from the commercial world, it’s an important lifeline for artists. It’s the next stepping stone for artists. The pressure the commercial galleries are under right now is kind of a major challenge.
What I would like to see is the art world shrink a little bit, do less and go deeper.
The problem is though, that art is a major commodity. Art has this star studded draw. A celebrity aspect that leaves us with questions such as, how do we deal with the celebrity culture around the art world? I think what I would like to see is that we create a new type of celebrity, the kind of collectors that we talked about earlier, the kind of artists who were really engaged with processes of transformation in the community, who also make artworks that do good or make us think. Artworks which you may be able to acquire, but they also make for incredible projects that are really embedded in communities. How to create a new kind of celebrity for the art world. That’s what I would like to see. That’s not necessarily where it is going though.
This is something that probably needs to be cultivated and it also brings us full circle to the start of our conversation on elements of education. There are cuts now in the arts and in education, maybe an answer to your question, in order to cultivate that, there should be more arts at an earlier stage in school, this may help with the future of the art world? Furthermore, that access to art at an earlier stage, may give people less anxiety as we enter a world that’s more and more functioning with technology.
Absolutely. There was an open letter in the Guardian signed by a 100 artists on the arts in schools, regarding getting increased funding and early learning in the arts, which as you are saying is super important. But also we need to talk about what art is. It feels like it is elitism to do that and very far removed from people or different to what people know, rather than it giving off the feeling that it is your story, that art can be each of our stories. When you go into the Tate, into the National Gallery, The National Portrait Gallery or into the V&A, you own that art, the public owns that, we own that, and if people don’t feel like they belong there, that, that is part of their story or if they understand this is not their story but this is why it’s not, then they can do something about it.
They can add to the narrative
Exactly, they can do that.
So many people’s story are not part of the narrative, be it an artist or not an artist
Absolutely. And it’s provoking some kind of critique about that, to think very differently about the objects in the museums which are increasingly noticed because of celebrities or because of the art market. They are looked at due to the financial value not the social value it is rooted in.
I think artists can do a lot yes, but also education can do a lot in the sense of re-articulating stories and those narratives. So if we start to think about art being rooted in history and start to talk about objects as part of history and talk about the politics of those objects, as much as when we talk about the value of them, and then relate it to the contemporary practice, to the contemporary world and why conceptual art does what it does, why postmodernists did what they did, their political reaction of other movements, other trends, if we talk about the evolution of things, then I think it will really inspire people, or get them angry because they are not represented in a museum.
When you go to a museum you should question why you feel yourself not being represented there. Because on some level this public body has to take people in consideration - of course you have co-sponsors and so on, but ultimately people own the museums. It’s a public body. I think that lack of ownership that’s never communicated. It’s a public collection. Public means ours.
I guess then if art is the bridge, then we should feel welcomed to walk through that bridge.
Aaron Cezar is the founding Director of Delfina Foundation, where he develops, curates and oversees its interrelated programme of residencies, exhibitions and public platforms.
He has devised Delfina Foundation's groundbreaking thematic programmes such as Collecting as Practice, the first ever integrated residency programme for collectors alongside artists. Independently and through Delfina Foundation, he has sat on numerous boards, committees and advisory groups such as All Change Arts, Shubbak, Davidoff Art Initiative, Caspian Arts Foundation, the Young Arab Theatre Fund, the Marrakech Biennale, Art Brussels, Crossroads Art Fair, and Al Serkal Avenue. He has been a jury member for a number of awards, including the Jarman Award (2012), LIVE WORKS Performance Act Award (Vol.4 - 2016), and many others. In 2017, he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal College of Arts.
Aaron has worked as Project Director of Metal, the artistic laboratory space established by Jude Kelly OBE, becoming Managing Director of Metal’s arts-based consultancy overseeing creative projects with a focus on urban regeneration. He has also worked with London 2012, as part of its culture team that secured London's Olympic bid; at The Place, London; and in New York, as a management consultant.
Aaron has first degrees in Economics and Dance from Princeton University and a postgraduate degree in the Creative Industries from King’s College London.
Delfina Foundation is an independent, non-profit foundation dedicated to facilitating artistic exchange and developing creative practice through residencies, partnerships and public programming.