Dissertation- The Art of Balance- Cultural Diplomacy in Museums- Aug 2011


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This dissertation was written at part of the requirements for the completion of the Cultural Policy and Management program at City University in London, England.

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Dissertation- The Art of Balance- Cultural Diplomacy in Museums- Aug 2011

  1. 1. The Art of Balance Cultural Diplomacy in Museums Erin Martin MA, Cultural, Policy and Management August 2011 This thesis is submitted to City University London as part of the requirements for the award of the MA Culture, Policy and Management
  2. 2. Table of Contents Acknowledgement i Abstract ii 1. Introduction 1 2. Research 2 2.1 Literature Review 2 2.2 Purpose of Research 4 2.3 Methodology 5 2.4 Limitations 5 3 Cultural Diplomacy 7 3.1 What is Cultural Diplomacy? 7 3.2 Cultural Diplomacy in the US 10 3.3 Cultural Diplomacy in Great Britain 13 3.4 Moving Forward with Cultural Diplomacy in Museums 16 4 Museums 18 4.1 What Does “Museum” Mean? 18 4.2 Brief Background and History of Museums 18 4.3 Museums and Cultural Diplomacy 19 4.4 Moving Forward 21 5 Ai Weiwei: A Case Study 23 5.1 Who is Ai Weiwei? 23 5.2 Ai Weiwei and the Chinese Political System 23 5.3 Ai Weiwei, Museums and Cultural Diplomacy 26 6 Conclusion and Findings 29 6.1 Cultural Diplomacy 29 6.2 Museum. Society and Cultural Diplomacy 31 7 Appendices 34 7.1 Brief Background and History of Museums 34
  3. 3. 7.2 Who is Ai Weiwei? 36 8 Bibliography 40
  4. 4. i Acknowledgement I would like to thank my dissertation supervisor Vicky Woollard for her guidance and input during our tutorials and throughout this process. I would also like to thank my mother, Caral Martin for all of her love, help and encouragement during my studies at City University. Lastly, I would like to thank my friends, both old and new for their support and camaraderie.
  5. 5. ii Abstract The Art of Balance: Cultural Diplomacy in Museums Building strong relationships with other nations is extremely important. While it is not possible to change government policies and it is not easy to force other nations to follow other nation’s policies without using extreme force, nations can find common ground and learn about other nation’s values and culture through cultural diplomacy. Cultural diplomacy can be used to help promote nation states, encourage dialogue and build long lasting mutually beneficial relations. Cultural institutions such as museums, can lead the way in this endeavour due to their reputations and history of international relations through art exhibitions and educational initiatives. This dissertation provides an in-depth look into cultural diplomacy, museums and the relationship between the two. A case study involving Chinese artist Ai Weiwei will be used to provide a present day example of the power and influence of cultural diplomacy in the museum. Erin Martin (Words: 10,492)
  6. 6. 1 1. Introduction Cultural diplomacy is a subject that has been written about many times yet can sometimes be difficult to define and implement. There has been much debate among politicians about the need for cultural diplomacy. Some politicians question the validity of the influence that culture and art have on the international political arena; while others view cultural diplomacy as an absolute necessity, but struggle to find the right balance of government involvement. Too much government involvement can make it seem as if cultural diplomacy is being used as a tool to aid direct government policy, thereby exploiting art and culture, turning them into propaganda. If there is no government involvement, it could be seen as another art institution showing art abroad with no message. The goal of cultural diplomacy is to build mutually beneficial and long lasting relationships but, there has to be a balance - a delicate balance of powers to ensure the right message is communicated and received by the intended audience. For centuries, museums have played an important role in societies around the world. They are cultural institutions in which people are able to come, learn, and enjoy art. Some museums have gained a reputation not just for their collection of art but also for the way they conduct business. Depending on the political structure where the museum is located, it may receive support from the government or support from private and corporate funders. Over the years museums have had to adopt and change with the times. Growing, hosting and staging international shows has meant developing international strategies, which in turn has meant museums, like the art they acquire, can sometimes become involved in politics. The relationship between cultural diplomacy and museums is one that exists in varying degrees depending on the institution. This dissertation will set out to examine cultural diplomacy, the place of the museum in society and in cultural diplomacy. To begin, cultural diplomacy will be defined and explained. In addition, background information will be provided on how cultural diplomacy is perceived in the United States (US) and in Great Britain. Next,
  7. 7. 2 an explanation of what it means to be called a museum will be provided as well as the initial purpose for the creation of the museum. An examination of the evolution of the museums from their early years leading up to the present will be used to reveal their impact on society and to explore how museums can and do play a role in cultural diplomacy, most notably through art exhibitions. Context on this topic will be provided through an explanation of cultural diplomacy and its place in the US and in Great Britain. Next, historical background on the premise and ideals of the earliest museums as well as examples of museums using cultural diplomacy will be laid out. A case study will be used as an in-depth analysis of the relationship between cultural diplomacy and museums. The case study will be on Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, his recent detention and the reaction of museums to this human rights violation. This case study along with information and examples of cultural diplomacy and museums will help to further explain the connection between the two. 2. Research and Methodology 2.1 Literature Review Information may not be found on this specific topic, but there is literature on cultural diplomacy and museums, their place in society. During the research process, there was no lack of cultural diplomacy related material. However, museums themselves were seldom used as examples. The exception to this is Art/Museums: International Relations Where we least Expect it by Christine Sylvester. The focus of the book was more on how art, exhibitions and museums worked on an international level, with examples of specific art and exhibitions being used more so than the museums as a whole. The cultural diplomacy link came from much of the historical context provided on the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, USA, which corresponds with cultural diplomacy efforts taking place in the US during the same time period. This information on MOMA and on museums will be discussed in-depth in Chapter 4.
  8. 8. 3 Also included in Chapter 4 is a brief history and background on museums. One of the more frequently cited books on the early years of the museums, The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics. The author, Tony Bennett provides information on how museums were created to be institutions that civilize the lower class people and to ultimately make society better. The elite members of society held much political clout and used the museums as a means to sway society to their advantage. Along with Bennett’s take on the early years in the museums, Jonah Siegel also provides a picture of museums in his book The Emergence of the Modern Museum. Siegel provides historical background, from the 16th century to the 19th century in England, detailing events that helped shape the modern museums such as the Great Exhibition of 1851, the first national museums, the British Museum, that opened in 1753 and the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the first purpose built art gallery designed by Sir John Sloane, which opened in 1813. There was no shortage of cultural diplomacy literature as it is a very broad topic spanning decades. One of the most recent books written on the discipline is Searching for a Cultural Diplomacy. This compilation of essays written by experts on cultural diplomacy provides a variety of examples, most notably the article by Gienow-Hecht and Donfried titled, The Models of Cultural Diplomacy. Gienow-Hecht and Donfried provide a great deal of historical information on cultural diplomacy both in the US and in Europe. Another author on the topic of cultural diplomacy, John Brown, discusses the lack of cultural diplomacy efforts in his article Arts Diplomacy: The Neglected Aspect of Cultural Diplomacy. In this article, Brown discusses the US Government’s involvement, or lack thereof in cultural diplomacy, or as he prefers to refer to it as ‘arts diplomacy’. Brown also provides interesting details in regards to the US and their past efforts in arts diplomacy including the CIA’s involvement during the Cold War. More details on this topic can be found in Chapter 3. Both the US and Great Britain see the need for cultural diplomacy. Demos, a think tank organization based in Great Britain, constructed a report on British cultural diplomacy in 2007. The report discusses Great Britain and their cultural exchanges through the British
  9. 9. 4 Council as well as the impact the 2012 Olympic Games will have on the cultural standing of Great Britain. Demos also make recommendations on how the British Government can work to improve cultural diplomacy efforts while still maintaining a balance between culture and politics. For the US, the cultural diplomacy situation is very different. The Linchpin Report, written in September 2005 by an advisory committee on cultural diplomacy for the US State Department, provides counsel to the Secretary of State on how to improve cultural diplomacy efforts. These recommendations include (but are not limited to) improving funding, advanced training on cultural diplomacy for those working in public affairs and expanding international cultural exchange programs. The US has had a very interesting relationship with cultural diplomacy, one which will examined further in Chapter 3 and Chapter 4. To provide context for the case study on Ai Weiwei, it was imperative to research China’s cultural diplomacy background as well as information on Ai and his relationship with the Chinese Government. Articles from publication such as the New York Times, The Museums Journal, The Guardian and other news and online journal outlets were used to provide up-to- date information on Ai Weiwei’s situation as many events have taken place in the last few months. 2.2 Purpose of Research From this research, it is hoped that the reader will gain an understanding of cultural diplomacy and the impact it has on museums and, in turn, the role museums can play as cultural diplomats when situations arise that affect artists who exhibit, or have in the past, exhibited in their museum. Research on this subject is divided into three parts. First, an definition and explanation of cultural diplomacy will be provided and used as context for the US and British perspective on key topics. Next, a definition, brief history, and examples of museums and cultural diplomacy in museums will be given. Lastly, a case study on Ai Weiwei and current events will be used to provide modern day support on the research topic.
  10. 10. 5 The following questions were observed while writing this dissertation and it is hoped an explanation for them will be gained from reading this research.  What is Cultural Diplomacy?  What does it mean to be a museum and what role do museums play in society?  How can the relationship between cultural diplomacy and museums be illustrated best?  What responsibilities do museums have when it comes to political issues that affect artists who exhibit in their space? 2.3 Methodology The methodology for this research is qualitative and is derived mostly from desk research both in libraries as well as from the Internet. The majority of the research and evidence to support the hypothesis comes from books, articles and government documents. Web articles specifically will be used when discussing Ai Weiwei and his recent detention and release as the topic has unfolded over the last few months and Web articles will provide the most up-to- date information. The framework for this research will be an informational examination of museums as a whole, not sticking to any specific departments but to examine museums as cultural institutions and how they fit into society .To provide depth, political issues will be used to provide the reader an explanation for the role of the museum in society with respect to cultural diplomacy and politics. To keep this research focused, acquisitions, displaying art and other topics relating to the daily running of the museum will not be discussed. Repatriation of objects by museums will also not be discussed as the art work has been acquired in recent years from a live artist. Museums being discussed will be mainly museums housing pieces from Ai or that have exhibitions of Chinese artefacts and are located in the US or Great Britain. 2.4 Limitations
  11. 11. 6 Possible challenges will be finding material to support the argument. With part of the topic being very US-based, it may be a challenge to find materials if they are not carried in British libraries. The subjects covered in this dissertation are very broad and can cover many areas. Due to constraints on the amount of text allowed, only areas that pertain to this topic will be covered.
  12. 12. 7 3. Cultural Diplomacy 3.1 What is Cultural Diplomacy? To begin, it is first important to set up a clear definition of what the term cultural diplomacy means. There has been much written about the topic of cultural diplomacy and depending on the nation, government or personal point of view by the author, it can take on many different meanings. There are, however, basic principles of cultural diplomacy such as open communication, sharing and understanding values, promoting a nation or building networks, all through arts and culture that remain constant throughout much of the literature. In Cultural Diplomacy: The Linchpin of Public Diplomacy Report, a report by the advisory committee by the U.S. Department of State, cultural diplomacy is defined as, ‘the exchange of ideas, information, art, and other aspects of culture among nations and their peoples in order to foster mutual understanding.’ (USDS 2005) Nick Cull, a British historian sees cultural diplomacy as, ‘a subset of actions and programs under the general heading of public diplomacy’ that attempts ‘to manage the international environment through making its [the nation’s] cultural resources and achievements known overseas and/or facilitating cultural transmission abroad.’ (Cull 2007) For the purpose of this dissertation, a definition of cultural diplomacy has been created by combining principles and definitions from many resources. For this dissertation, cultural diplomacy will be defined as: A means of recovering the image of a nation through the exchange of culture, knowledge and shared interests, with another country, while improving communications and developing lasting networks in order to build a lasting and mutually beneficial future. Cultural diplomacy is often referred to as a ‘soft power’ tool for public diplomacy. This term, soft power, was coined by Joseph Nye in his book Paradox of American Power. Soft power ‘rests on the ability to set the political agenda in a way that shapes the preferences of others.’ (Nye 2002) The word “soft” is used, not to imply that cultural diplomacy is weak and
  13. 13. 8 ineffective, but that it can be used to influence another government or people in many different situations. When thinking in terms of international politics and relations, instead of using military or economic means, i.e. “hard powers” to force or pressure another nation to go along with the policies of one’s own nation, a “soft power” approach ‘co-opts people rather than coerce them.’ (Nye 2002) Culture and art are used to gain leverage or as a means to relate to another people. It can also help to promote values and understanding while bridging the gap between the lines of communication. To gain a better understanding of this term, it is important to not just define cultural diplomacy but also public diplomacy and explain the difference between the two. While cultural diplomacy is considered to be a “soft” form of public diplomacy, there are very distinct differences between the two. Public diplomacy, according to the US State Department in 1987, ‘entails government sponsored programs intended to inform or influence public opinion in other countries: its chief instrument are publications, motion pictures, cultural exchanges, radio and television’ (Gienow-Hecht et al. 2010) and more recently by Cull as, ‘public diplomacy is an international actor’s attempt to manage the international environment through engagement with a foreign public.’(Cull 2009) In Cull’s report Public Diplomacy: Lessons from the past, he offers an explanation for cultural diplomacy as, ‘a subset of actions and programs under the general heading of public diplomacy’ that represents the attempt ‘to manage the international environment through making its (that nation’s) cultural resources and achievements known overseas and/or facilitating cultural transmission abroad.’ (Cull 2009) The major difference between the two is that public diplomacy has more affiliation with the government and is more about pushing policies or a specific agenda of one nation onto another. Cultural diplomacy on the other hand works more towards a mutually beneficial relationship, where both sides are exchanging art and using culture as a resource for finding common ground and understanding. The goal of cultural diplomacy is to promote a better understanding and improve a nation’s image where as public diplomacy is used to promote a political agenda.
  14. 14. 9 Culture has had a very long and interesting relationship with politics. In a report on cultural diplomacy written by Demos, describes the relationship between culture and politics is described as, ‘only effective when employed sensitively: it can be used as a forum for set piece political messaging, and as a safe space for unofficial political relationship-building; it can keep doors open at difficult times; and it can help to renegotiate relationships for changing times.’ (Demos 2007) Where war and economic sanctions may have failed, culture and art can prevail by taking a softer approach and working with another nation rather than trying to control another nation. Even as early as the late 18th century, diplomats saw the need for a means of communicating and engaging with audiences in other nations. Hamilton mentions how: Long before the ‘old diplomacy’ supposedly have way to the ‘new’, foreign ministries and diplomats had realized the advantage of appealing to audiences outside the cabinets and chancelleries of Europe. This too was implicit in what later generations would call ‘cultural diplomacy’, government backing for the protections and projections of national culture abroad. (Hamilton et al. 1995) In the earliest years, when governments were still figuring out how to work and function with other nations in a peaceful manner, and while it may not have been called cultural diplomacy, the need for the means to enlighten other nations on the home country’s culture was evident. During this time it was more about spreading influence and less about sharing the culture. The French for example worked diligently to spread their education and religious values abroad, specifically in the near and middle east. The French promoted their language, literature and culture in order to further their economic and political endeavours. (Hamilton et al. 1995) The Germans and Italians also worked to promote their language and culture abroad. The Germans set up funds in 1881 to promote German language in Eastern Europe. (Hamilton et al. 1995)
  15. 15. 10 With the wide range of issues going on in the international political front, cultural diplomacy would appear to be the best way to build relations. As Melissen states: The accent is increasingly on engaging with foreign audiences rather than selling messages on mutuality and the establishment of stable relationships instead of mere policy driven campaigns, on the ‘long-haul’ rather than short term needs, and on winning ‘hearts and minds’ and building trust. (Melissen 2005) Every nation takes a different approach and has a diverse historical background when it comes to cultural diplomacy. In order to provide context for the case studies presented later, the focus will be in the US and Great Britain. The general principles of cultural diplomacy are the same, both European as well as American experts have held true to the ideals of promoting a nation through the exchange of culture, knowledge and shared interests, with another country, The end result of the exchange being enhanced communication and developing lasting networks in order to build a lasting and mutually beneficial future. 3.2 Cultural Diplomacy in the US The US has had a somewhat effective yet controversial relationship with cultural diplomacy. From the time the US was formed by the founding fathers until present day, the need and ideals if cultural diplomacy have been questioned and examined. As early as 1785, Thomas Jefferson had the foresight to know there would be a need to connect with other nations outside of war and conflict. Before it was formally called cultural diplomacy, he had these words to say to James Madison: You see I am an enthusiast on the subject of the arts. But it is an enthusiasm of which I am not ashamed, as its object is to improve the taste of my countrymen, to increase their reputation, to reconcile to them the respect of the world and procure them its praise. (Schneider 2006)
  16. 16. 11 Jefferson knew that while guns may be effective temporarily, to instil in other nations, a high and proper reputation of the home nation was important to international relations. International public opinion is important, especially today with technology, it is important that the image other nations have of the US is the right one and not just what they can see on television. Thus, cultural diplomacy, ‘in all its variety provides a critical, maybe even the best, tool to communicate the intangibles that make America great: individual freedoms; justice and opportunity for all; diversity and tolerance.’ (Schneider 2003) Surely even the toughest critics of cultural diplomacy could agree during an era of conflict and war, which the US finds themselves in now, that a positive image of the US is crucial and the need to use a soft power may be more effective than using hard power. In 1938 the US State Department established a Division of Cultural Relations. While the intentions in the beginning were to work with Latin American nations, the attention soon turned to working with Germany, Italy, Japan and the Soviet Union. This agency later became part of the US Information Agency (USIA) in 1978. During the Cold War, the US Government practiced cultural diplomacy through cultural exchange programs, American libraries and centres, radio broadcasting, (Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty) and student, professional, and citizen exchanges. Even with the creation of government backed agencies, not all of government officials believed in the power of culture when it comes to foreign relations and foreign policy. However, there was a small group who had the foresight to see the potential of American high art and the role it could play in bridging the gap between other nations. These individuals were part of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and for over 20 years, ‘cultural diplomacy’s shadowy second home was the CIA, which made use of American culture – and American and European cultural leaders – in its own propaganda struggle against the Soviets.’ (Hurlburt 2008) Regardless of the CIA’s involvement during this time period, the fact is, they were successful in their endeavours. One of the goals of cultural diplomacy is to build strong long lasting relationships with other nations and this was achieved. An example of said success comes
  17. 17. 12 in the form of a discussion had between an American official and a Polish politician in 2004. During the discussion, the official asks what motivated Poland to support the US in the Iraq conflict. Even though the Cold War and the cultural diplomacy initiative have long since ended, the response given by the Polish politicians speaks strongly to the effects of the programs taking place then. The Polish politicians responded: I look around the Polish Cabinet and see that almost every single person spent a year or more studying or teaching in the United States. I look at the next generations of Polish leaders and see that almost none of them have the same experience. They would not make the same decision. (Hurlburt 2008) If the US is to maintain good relations with other nations, it may be necessary to revisit some of the cultural diplomacy methods during the Cold War. Based on this Polish politician and his fellow politicians experiences during that time, they felt such a kinship to the US, they were willing to support the US war efforts even though the conflict had nothing to do with Poland. While the CIA involvement may have also been a means to potentially spy on other nations, it did however have long lasting positive effects that should not be overlooked. While the CIA was successful, it could appear as if the intent was to use art as propaganda, which takes away from the ideals of cultural diplomacy. It is important to look past the negative thoughts and images given to cultural diplomacy based on the CIA’s involvement and to see the big picture that cultural diplomacy is needed and with a new approach, can become useful and effective. The key is to strike the right balance of government involvement. Cultural diplomacy in the US struggles to not only find legitimacy but also a means of existing. Brown discusses how art was seen mainly as a tool for foreign policy and not as a means to build long lasting and mutually beneficial bonds with other nations, especially during World War II and the Cold War. The two reasons for the lack of foresight on the part of government officials was:
  18. 18. 13 First, many in the government and among the public at large continued to view the promotion of high art abroad as useless, if not suspicious; and, second, even when arts diplomacy was reluctantly used, it was only a small, if not negligible, part of America’s overall international efforts. (Brown 2006) The ideal of cultural diplomacy is for it to be used as a soft non-governmental power instead a tool to gain control. It is not to be used as a means of trying to get other countries on your side because one government is worried that another will join with an opposing country. Cultural diplomacy today in the US still does not have full government support. However, after the events of September 11th and the subsequent war taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan, the need for a soft power approach is becoming more apparent. As Schneider sees it, ‘In facing these new dangers, a re-examination of old priorities is needed. Cultural diplomacy, in the widest sense, has increased in importance, whereas traditional diplomacy and military power . . . are of limited use in coping with most of these dangers.’ (Schneider 2006) With very few of the cultural diplomacy efforts made during the time of the Cold War era still in place, one could almost argue that if the centres had been maintained, maybe some of the future issues that arose could have been prevented. Just because the initial threat is gone, does not mean there is not another threat looming in the distance. The ideals, values and culture of an ever changing society cannot be shared and fully understood by another nation over night. It takes constant nurturing and a continued exchange of information while working to build and strengthen the relationship. 3.3 Cultural Diplomacy in Great Britain The British entrance into cultural diplomacy was much smoother that the US with the formation of the British Council in 1934. While the US has agencies that were closely affiliated with the government, leaving their programs susceptible to being perceived as propaganda, Great Britain took an arm’s length approach to cultural diplomacy by receiving
  19. 19. 14 financial support from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with no direct input into the services rendered by the council. The goal of the British Council was to, ‘make British life and thought more widely known abroad, to encourage the study of the English language, and to render available abroad current British contributions to literature, science, of the fine arts.’ (Gienow-Hecht et al. 2010) Before the British Council was created, Great Britain, unlike other European governments, did not see the need to promote the culture and language. It was not until 1926, when Sir Reginald (‘Rex’) Leeper joined the News Department at the Foreign Office and the D’Abnernon Report, a report on trade to South America, was published, that this mindset began to change. The report discussed the, ‘need for greater emphasis on cultural relations because of the ‘commercial importance of cultural influence.’ (Fisher 2009) Throughout turbulent times such as the Cold War, the Falkland’s War and the subsequent Afghanistan and Iran conflict, the British Council has continued to push through and find opportunities for common ground and building relations with other nations. Because it can be so easily accepted and embraced, art and culture can easily be used as tools for propaganda. The British Council took a less controversial route with cultural diplomacy efforts than the US and still worked to promote Great Britain and especially the English language to other nations. The British Council has been able to use this soft power to promote British culture and British foreign policy without direct government influence. Great Britain recognizes the need for the council and the need to promote a positive image outside of what happens in the political arena. In a report on cultural diplomacy, Demos remarked ‘in a world where popular culture can generate instant discord, there is an ever greater need for the formal cultural sector to continue its role of mediation and explanation: cultural chasms are best dealt with by building cultural bridges.’ (Demos 2007) While television and the Internet can reach many people quickly, it may only show one side of a nation. To gain a true understanding and value for a culture it is best to present multiple sides which include high art and culture as well popular culture.
  20. 20. 15 While the more affluent can easily access high culture, it is those who are lower on the totem pole that need to be reached as they tend to be in the majority and may only have access to what can be seen on satellite television or on the Internet. British cultural institutions and those working in the sector, realize if, Britain were left to commercial channels: profitable audiences would see the usual mix of heritage drama and royal scandal while the unprofitable corners of the world would be utterly abandoned and prey to the loudest local opinion on exactly what British values might be. (Cull 2011) Understanding the value and properly utilizing cultural diplomacy has helped not only to promote a positive image of high art in Great Britain, but also goes beyond what is seen in the main stream arena. Great Britain is in a unique position today. With the 2012 Olympic Games just around the corner, there is a rare opportunity to make cultural diplomacy a major focus. The Olympics are a great opportunity to showcase British culture on an even larger scale than they normally would have the occasion to. Those who are not physically attending the games can watch the events on television. In order to do this, Demos suggested: Cultural institutions and the DCMS should be represented on a newly formed cultural diplomacy working group run by the Public Diplomacy Group (the Secretariat of the Public Diplomacy Board), which would provide a formal mechanism for cultural institutions to engage with the FCO and feed into emerging thinking and policy on public diplomacy, but without skewing the focus of the whole public diplomacy strategy. (Demos 2007) With this group feeding into the FCO, how will it strike a balance, that is, remain impartial to policies of the FCO yet still work to promote cultural diplomacy? With the group being made up of cultural institutions and DCMS, it is hoped that official government involvement will be kept to a minimum in order to keep it from feeling like a tool for policy propaganda. A positive
  21. 21. 16 note to make is that while the government will be involved, at least it will be public knowledge. Where as in the US, when the CIA secretly funded and participated in cultural diplomacy efforts, thus leaving a tainted mark on US cultural diplomacy from the 1940’s to the1960’s, this collaboration would be open to the public and possibly less susceptible to scepticism. 3.4 Moving Forward with Cultural Diplomacy and Museums The overall goal of cultural diplomacy is to promote and share the culture of one’s nation with another nation. Similar to marketing a product, the goal is to effectively market the nation and to do so, it is necessary to have a target audience. (Anholt 2008) For museums, most already have a well established and respected brand. Most museums are even so well known they can simply go by an acronym or abbreviation of their name. For example, most people refer to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City as MOMA or the Prado museums in Madrid, Spain, whose formal name is Museo Nacional del Prado. These museums are so well known and have such world-renowned reputations, museum enthusiasts are well aware of the museums simply by the nickname. Brand image along with the reputation of a museum is very important and can be used to legitimize any statements or stances taken when it comes to cultural diplomacy. Anholt brings up the idea of a competitive identity, which describes, ‘a plan for mobilising the strategies, activities, investments, innovations and communications of as many national sectors as possible, both public and private.’ (Anholt 2008) This includes one of the 6 basic areas of activity, one of which is cultural exchange and cultural export. With that in mind, the opportunity exists for museums to fall into a good position of helping to foster cultural exchange and diplomacy through hosting exhibitions or through producing or sponsoring exhibitions in other nations in order to promote their nations and work to improve their image, should it need improving.
  22. 22. 17 Museums have their own reputation aside from that of their nation's identity. Through decades of hard work, museums have become institutions where visitors can become educated by the art of a foreign nation and that of their own nation. Museums were started on the premise of bettering society and continue to do so today, making museums a great resource for cultural diplomacy efforts. With cultural diplomacy definition and ideas set forth, the connection to museums can be explained in further detail. Later in this dissertation, an example in the form of a case study on Ai Weiwei will be used as a even further explanation into how in the current climate, museums can be important players in cultural diplomacy.
  23. 23. 18 4. Museums 4.1 What Does “Museum” Mean? To begin, it would be best to set a firm definition of what it means to be considered a museum. The definition of a museum can be a combination of ideas on education, preservation, art and culture. Museums are seen as a venue of learning and enlightenment where patrons are allowed to think freely, observe and contemplate artwork, and historical and scientific artefacts. By doing this, it is hoped that those who enter the museum will learn and grow into well-rounded members of society. The museum does this though encouraging free thought and opinions and by educating the viewer on the world around them and beyond. In The Emergence of the Modern Museum, Siegel defines a museum as, ‘a collection of repository of rare and curious things in nature and art, arranged for the purposes of study.’ (Siegel 2008) The International Council of Museums (ICOM) approaches the act of defining a museum from many different angles. ICOM approached defining a museum from a conceptual, theoretical, practical and functional, activity related perspective. With this many points of view and the many different types of museums, it can be difficult to develop a basic yet clear and concise definition for a museum (ICOM 2010). For the purpose of this dissertation, we will be defining a museum with a combination of ideas presented by ICOM as well as other resources as: an institution in which the preservation, research and exhibition of objects are used as tools to serve society and aid in its enrichment and development. This definition takes into consideration the activities that take place in a museum while approaching the function of museums from a conceptual perspective. This viewpoint will be used to support the main argument laid out as to the place of the museum in society and in cultural diplomacy. 4.2 Brief Background and History of Museums For historical content see the appendices section 7.1.
  24. 24. 19 4.3 Museums and Cultural Diplomacy For centuries, major art museums have been involved in politics and international relations. Museums have used their soft powers and status in society to place themselves in a position that gives them the power to have an opinion that holds weight. The balance between politics and art has always been a delicate one. There are no rules or policies set in place but clearly there is an opportunity for museums to use their influence and be involved in this soft power. Cultural diplomacy cannot change government policies but what it can do is work towards creating a better understanding and towards building relations between nations. Museums cannot change the policies of another country’s government. But, they can keep communications open in others way by creating a dialogue between the nations through art exhibitions, educational events, international strategies, and hosting international artists from opposing nations. Thereby, utilizing the arts to promote a better understanding of each nation and their values. Those who are involved with the internal workings of the museum are quite familiar with the power of cultural diplomacy. One such example of museums taking an active role in cultural diplomacy is the World Collections Programme. This programme, chaired by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museums and the UK’s first appointed cultural ambassador, aims to, ‘establish two-way partnerships with institutions in Asia and Africa, and increase their access to British collections and expertise.’(www.britishmuseum.org) The British Museum, along with five other major art museums in London will work through their museums to build new relationships and public programmes as well to foster the exchange of culture. In an article for The Sunday Times in 2007, MacGregor is quoted as saying, “Museums can reach very large numbers and the contacts go on despite political ups and downs.” (Woolf 2007) One of the key objectives of cultural diplomacy is to build relationships. The point of doing this is so that when there are turbulent times, nations can have a positive starting point in order to try and rectify the situations. One could even argue the point that if countries are enjoying a mutually beneficial exchange of culture and are
  25. 25. 20 gaining better understanding of national values, there may not be disagreements. Utilizing the power and influence of the museum and taking advantage of the international connections that can be made will not only help with the nations image but will also set up future generations with strong international relationships, similar to that of the US and Poland, which was mentioned in the previous chapter. While it is not surprising that museums of today are involved in politics, there are also examples, while not as publically known, of museums being involved in cultural diplomacy and politics, specifically MOMA during World War II and the Cold War. Sylvester described it best by saying the museum is, ‘an intricate, multivalent, internationally implicated, socially situated social institution, growing in popularity.’ (Sylvester 2009) This is best illustrated by MOMA and their interactions with art and politics during World War II and the Cold War. During World War II and the Cold War Nelson Rockefeller, president of MOMA in New York City in 1939, was involved in US Government war efforts that sometimes mixed in with programs and the general image of MOMA. Whilst there were some in the US government who did not believe cultural diplomacy would be effective and did not see high art as representative of the nation, there were other influential people like Rockefeller who did, although his efforts in cultural diplomacy could be perceived as for personal gain. (Brown 2006) During the 1930’s, the US Government established a Division of Cultural Relations with intentions of trying to become “good neighbours” to the Latin American nations. Rockefeller, whose family had oil holdings (Creole Petroleum Company) in Venezuela, was appointed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to be the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (CIAA). Amongst many other governmental appointments such as Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America and in 1952 special assistant to President Dwight Eisenhower, Rockefeller either held a seat on the board or was president of MOMA. (Sylvester 2009) While it may not be clear what Rockefeller’s underlying intention may have been when he accepted these political positions, his interactions were seen as suspicious. Critics and art historians felt
  26. 26. 21 MOMA’s image was, ‘sullied and compromised by political involvement in the American war effort’ and ‘accused Rockefeller of clandestinely turning the museum into a tool of capitalist American propaganda.’ (Sylvester 2009) It is understandable why critics would feel this way. While Rockefeller was doing what many well connected and wealthy persons do, what raised the eyebrows of critics is how his personal business affairs affected MOMA. During this time, MOMA along with the CIAA, organized a contemporary art exhibition in Latin America, started art programs overseas with funding coming from a Rockefeller Brother Fund grant as well as accepting government contracts totalling approximately $1.5 million. While there is no direct connection to MOMA and the CIA, MOMA did work with the USIA on several occasions around the same time the CIA was secretly working with the USIA. On a less controversial note, MOMA, with sponsoring from the USIA produced a photography exhibition in 1955 titled “The Family Man”. Rockefeller and is family name had no affiliation with this exhibition as he withdrew his family funding dollars in an efforts to make MOMA in its own right an international museum. The exhibition, taking place post World War II, contained 503 themed photos focusing on the common values and human expressions that people around the world share such as love, family, and trust. No famous photographers were used making it such that those who came to the exhibition came because they were interested in seeing everyday Americans. “The Family Man” was exhibited internationally in over 37 countries for 10 years with support from the museum’s international programs, which started in 1952. (www.MOMA.org; Sylvester 2009) 4.4 Moving Forward Museums are filled with interesting artefacts and were created to help make society better. Through the years, museums have adapted to the world around them and with this adaptation come changes in how museums interact with society. Throughout this dissertation, cultural diplomacy and museums have been analysed as well as the connection
  27. 27. 22 between the two. This final section, Chapter 5, provides further analysis into the relationship between cultural diplomacy and museums.
  28. 28. 23 5. Ai Weiwei: A Case Study 5.1 Who is Ai Weiwei? For a brief biography on Ai Weiwei see appendices section 7.2. 5.2 Ai Weiwei and the Chinese Political System Troubles began for Ai in 2008 when he along with other Chinese artists and activists spoke out about the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in which 5000 children were killed when their poorly constructed schools collapsed. Since then, Ai has faced much verbal and physical opposition from the Chinese government. His blog has been shut down and his studios have been raided (north Beijing) or demolished (Shanghai). Authorities have also questioned and followed him, his family and associates. (CBC.CA) While Ai still continues to use Twitter, although his posts are sometimes deleted and his blog, which runs off of a server in the US, are still up, it is only a matter of time before they are censored as well. These attempts by the Chinese government to silence Ai came to a head in April 2011 when he was detained while attempting to board a plane to Hong Kong. Ai as well as his wife and associates were held with no word given as to where they were or what they were being charged with. Speculation as to the reasons behind secret detention ranged from government fears of Ai helping to promote a “Jasmine Revolution” to a charge of obscenity as a result of his art work. (Sheridan 2011; Richburg 2011) Regardless of the reason, one thing was clear, Chinese officials were attempting to silence the outspoken artist. While Ai may not have been able to speak out and was hidden from the public view, the art world spoke for him, demanding to know his whereabouts, why he was being detained and for the authorities to release him, his wife and associates. Chinese human rights activist suspect the government’s way of regaining control of the people and to stop any kind of revolution is to take severe action against people while the rest of the world is preoccupied with the uprisings that took place in the Middle East and in North Africa. It is classic behaviour by the authorities to, ‘redraw the lines of permissible expression in China, to
  29. 29. 24 restrict the most outspoken advocates of global values.’ (Richburg 2011) However, there are always two sides to the story. Chinese officials have defended their actions. In a New York Times article, Wong reports that Ai is being detained under suspicion of “economic crimes” under the “rule of law” in China. Although it should be noted that Wong points out that it is not uncommon for the Chinese government to charge citizens with financial fraud and convict them in order to silence them. (Wong 2011) To further understand the perspective of Chinese officials, it may be helpful to understand what is meant by “rule of law” and examine China’s soft power system. The legal system in China is complicated and while the goal of “rule of law” is to create a ‘harmonious socialist society’, they are far from achieving this. Essentially, the idea behind the “rule of law” is, ‘a system under which law acts as a curb on state and private power. Rules are set in advance and applied consistently, equally, and transparently by independent courts that serve as a backstop to protect civil, political, and human rights.’ (Horsley 2007) Striving for a transparent and equal society is hard to achieve when the ruling party system has communist ideals. Horsley discusses how post Cultural Revolution era, China’s government has been trying to achieve, ‘uniformity and dignity of the socialist legal system,” set forth the aspirational principle that no individual or organization (including political parties) is above the Constitution or the law, and spelled out certain fundamental rights and duties of Chinese citizens.’ (Horsley 2007) A major source of failure falls on the government’s lack of ability to relinquish control. While intellectuals, activist and artists are still being detained and the government is more concerned with “maintaining social stability” then actually trying to not be above the law, the “rule of law” will not be reformed nor will the negative imagery sometimes associated with China. The idea and term public diplomacy is a relatively new term in China. While other major nations have been practicing the art of using soft power for centuries, this idea has only come to light since the Cold War. One of the principles of cultural diplomacy is the idea of promoting the nation. In order to do this, it is necessary to have a target audience. Before
  30. 30. 25 China can effectively target anyone, they must first work on their image. D’Hooghe discusses how China does not have the best image and that China blames this on the Western media, whom they feel have portrayed them in a negative light, by focusing only on the negative events. (D’Hooghe 2007) Whether this is true or not is up for debate, but ultimately having a positive image is important to being able to use soft powers effectively. To work towards this endeavour, China in the 1940’s began to invite journalist to visit select parts of China and encouraged them to report on the progress taking place. The goal and end result was to show China as a, ‘peace-loving country, a victim of foreign aggression, a socialist country (stressed in the Maoist era), an anti-hegemonic force, a developing country and- especially 1978 onwards, a co-operator.’ (D’Hooghe 2007) China may have political and governmental issues to work out but they are making strides in the cultural diplomacy department. In April 2010, China opened the National Museum of China, located in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. For the museum’s first exhibition, China collaborated with Germany for “The Art of Enlightenment”. Lu Zhangshen, the museums director feels the exhibition is, “profoundly significant for China in furthering its understanding of the international world as well as recognising and embracing its own cultural values.” (Szántó 2010) The exhibition has not only brought German finances into a Chinese museums, it has opened the doors for the two countries to exchange cultural values and to promote an understanding of nation states. As Chen Ping put it, ‘Cultural exchange is also thinking exchange.” Ping, the culture ministry official, has worked along with his staff to gain an understanding of German culture and to promote Chinese culture in Germany. This exchange has been taking place since 2001 and includes festivals, Chinese diplomats working on cultural programmes in embassies and the establishing of cultural institutes abroad. (Szántó 2010) While it is encouraging to see effort being made by museums in China to foster relationships with other nations, there is still the underlying big issue of the political and human rights issues. The museum is a great place to start the steps of fostering ideas and encouraging
  31. 31. 26 thought in the Chinese people, but if the Chinese government will only continue to oppress this free thinking, it can be perceived as pointless and this will discourage other cultural institutions from wanting to work with China. However, this could be the starting point to breaking down and breaking through the political constraints, with the help of museums. If the National Museum of Beijing can encourage enough people to have their own independent thoughts, they may be able to begin to desire a new order. 5.3 Ai Weiwei, Museums and Cultural Diplomacy Ai Weiwei was detained in early April 2011 and released from secret detention in late June 2011. He was charged with tax and fine evasion to the tune of £1.2million and cannot leave Beijing for 1 year. During the 80 days Ai was detained, a great outcry rose up in the international art world. While artist like Anish Kapoor showed his displeasure by planning to boycott the UK Now exhibition taking place next year in Beijing, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation started an online petition for the release of Ai. A protest, 1001 chairs for Ai, named after an instillation by Ai titled ‘Fairytale: 1001 Qing Dynasty Wooden Chairs’ was organized. This international protest took place on April 17th at 1pm. As a display of solidarity, participants were asked to bring chairs to a sit in in from front of Chinese embassies and consults around the world. (Cash 2011) Many prominent museum officials and cultural institutions spoke out or offered some type of reaction to the detention of Ai. While its commendable for directors of reputable museums to sign an online petition for Ai’s release, should museums do more or are they using a good balance as far as being involved in the political issue while not stepping into official foreign policy territory? When it comes to whether or not a museum should participate in a political situation, it ultimately comes down to the museum and their policies. To speak could jeopardize future collaborations but to not speak out could alienate them amongst fellow museums colleagues. A prime example of such a dilemma is the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM). MAM
  32. 32. 27 will be hosting an exhibition of 18th century art and decorative objects titled “The Emperor’s Private Paradise”. This prestigious exhibition is a big deal for MAM and is the corner stone for their summer events and exhibition series “Summer of China”. As of now, MAM has not signed the online petition nor have they spoken out against China. Dan Keegan, director of MAM had this to say, “The political situation is extremely complex and the museum is sensitive to the discussion that Ai Weiwei’s detention has created and we are obviously concerned for his well being.” Keegan went on to further say “to that point, I think that our ‘Summer of China’ can play a role in expanding understanding and forwarding the dialogue between cultures.” (Schumacher 2011) With such a high profile exhibition coming to the museum, it is understandable that MAM would choose to remain neutral. To speak out could alienate the relationship they have built with China. On the other hand, to not speak out could make them appear to be supportive of those who violate human rights or to only be concerned for their museums well being. James Purnell, Cultural Secretary for Britain believes, ‘Culture and art may foster ties where cultural diplomacy cannot.’ (Woolf 2007) Both Purnell and Keegan agree that culture and art should be used as a means of diplomacy. It is a very delicate balance of what is right for each institution and how far a cultural institution should go. For MAM, to risk relations they have been building with China for years to speak out for Ai is not feasible for them. Keegan makes a good point in regards to using the exhibition as a means of dialogue between nations. Now may not be a good time, but if the relationship continues to strengthen, certainly down the road the topic can and should be discussed. Building strong relations now in order to have lasting connections later is part of what cultural diplomacy is all about. Similar to how the political officials in Poland decided to work with the US to invade Iraq, based on these officials having a bond with the US (as previously mentioned in Chapter 3), MAM can build this relationship in hopes of keeping dialogue open for years to come.
  33. 33. 28 For all the museums who like MAM, chose to remain silent, there were many who did not. The online petition on Change.org was started by the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation. In a statement on the Guggenheim Museum’s website, they wrote, We members of the international arts community express our concern for Ai’s freedom and disappointment in China’s reluctance to live up to its promise to nurture creativity and independent thought, the keys to “soft power” and cultural influence. (Guggenheim.org) This petition, which has been signed by directors of many international museums, speaks in a firm yet thoughtful tone. By no means are the museums shunning China, but they are expressing their disappointment and encouraging China to rethink their actions. Part of cultural diplomacy is using soft power to persuade and not control the situation. The museums are using a soft tough to let China know how they feel and what resolution they would like to have happen. Museums in Great Britain have also been quite vocal about the detention of Ai. The directors of Tate, Tate Modern and the director of the Serpentine Gallery all signed the online petition. Tate Modern went a step further and placed a “Release Ai Weiwei” banner on their building. The Museums Association, a membership based organization for those working in museums, galleries and heritage institutions, based in England, conducted a survey on their website. An overwhelming 92% of those who participated felt that the abuse of human rights should be a concern of museums. (museumassociation.org) With this in mind, some have called into question whether or not British museums should proceed with the “UK Now” exhibition next year. A spokesperson for the British Council had this to say, “We believe that all artists and cultural institutions should have the freedom to explore and represent their societies through art. The arts provide powerful ways of establishing open dialogue between people and cultures, and this is essential to building understanding and trust. We do not support cultural boycotts – dialogue is
  34. 34. 29 better than isolation. It is a priority of the British Council to give audiences across China opportunities to experience the art, ideas and creative freedom of the UK. It is the British Council’s role to forge links between our countries through the arts. UK Now will contribute to this.” (Steel 2011) It is commendable for the British Council to take this stance however it could be seen as an endorsement of Chinese policies. This is where the lines become quite blurry. On one hand, museums should not take away from the people of China who will welcome an opportunity to learn and engage with British culture. On the other hand, to condone blatant acts of human rights violations, not just against Ai, but all of the other not so well known artists and activists, does not look good for the image of the museums or the British Council. Ultimately, each individual museum will need to decide how they react in such situations. It is clear, museums play a role in cultural diplomacy but it is a very elusive balance as far as how much of a role should be played. In Balancing Act: Ethics, Missions and the Public Trust, Carr profiles museums stating, ‘To serve in a museum is to serve an ethos of responsible action toward both its collected objects and gathered human beings.’ (Carr 2001) Museums were created to help improve society and to improve the way people thought and acted. Museums have a degree of responsibility to uphold standards of trust, integrity and credibility while promoting art and culture to the masses. With great power comes great responsibility, a responsibility museums cannot enter into lightly. It is not possible to offer a one-size-fits-all solution but what can be done is to keep dialogue and cultural exchange going in order to continue to strengthen relations with other nations. 6. Conclusion and Findings 6.1 Cultural Diplomacy From this dissertation, a clear picture of what cultural diplomacy is and what is can do when implemented properly or improperly has been achieved. There are many government
  35. 35. 30 reports and articles written by experts on the matter, but the same principles and values are always constant. Cultural diplomacy promotes open communication, sharing and understanding of values, helps to promote a positive national image and builds mutually beneficial networks and relationships. Now more than ever, with so much political turmoil happening in the international arena, it is important to try and find common ground and a means of connecting with other nations that does not involve a heavy political hand, force or weapons. Cultural diplomacy can help promote national values and culture while showing other nations that some values are universal. Through these universal values, common ground can be discovered. Both sides, however, must be willing to keep an open mind. And it is important that government policy and agenda does not pollute the process. Through the examples given in this dissertation from the early years of the creation of the first museums in the US to Britain hosting the Olympic Games in 2012, cultural diplomacy has played a significant role in the image of nations. The US has not always had the best track record when it comes to cultural diplomacy. There has constantly been a split in governmental support of cultural diplomacy initiatives. Because of this split, some government officials have tried to use cultural diplomacy secretly. A prime example is the CIA’s successful implementation of many cultural initiatives while secretly working in the USIA post World War II. The CIA may have had an underlying agenda of spying on other countries during the Cold War, but the programs that were a part of the USIA, had a positive affect that lasted up until recent years. Cultural diplomacy could be used to rebuild allies for the US as well. As the Polish politician put it, the older generation feels a connection to the US because they were able to come to the US and study, teach and experience US culture first hand. The Linchpin Report stresses the importance of cultural diplomacy regardless of an imminent threat. It could be argued that if relations with other nations are strong and there is an open dialogue between nations, tensions between nations will not reach the point of physical interactions involving weapons.
  36. 36. 31 It is recommended that the US work towards building relations with the Middle Eastern nations as well as with Asian nations. Research has shown that nations in these areas have the most strained relations with the US. Much of what many perceive of the US is based on what is seen on television or on the Internet. By no means should pop culture be the leading representation of values and culture in the US. This is where cultural institutions such as museums can leverage travelling international exhibitions to further the cause of promoting a positive image of the US. Great Britain currently finds itself in a unique position of hosting the Olympics in 2012. This affords Great Britain the prime opportunity to control how the nation is promoted. The world will literally be Great Britain’s stage next year. Unlike the US, Great Britain is able to work to promote their culture through the British Council. This council receives funding for the government, however they are not run by the government. Thus, making any initiatives produced by the council less open to suspicion of an underlying government agenda. The British Council has been promoting British culture for over 75 years. It did not wait until there was a strain in relations with another nation; the council has been active in promoting the English language and British art and culture around the world. The difference between the approach taken by the US and the approach taken by Great Britain comes down to the way art, specifically high art, is viewed. In the US, when it comes to selecting something from US culture that would represent the nation, unfortunately art is not the most popular choice. This is evident in the way art and cultural institutions are funded mostly through private means with little government support. Great Britain’s government, on the other hand, highly values and supports the arts. Regardless of the differences, one thing is clear, cultural diplomacy is a necessity and should be and continue to be actively pursued. 6.2 Museums, Society and Cultural Diplomacy
  37. 37. 32 Museums were created to help make society better. Originally the goal was for the lower class to come to the museums, observe the upper class and hopefully adopt their decorum. What did happen once museums were truly made accessible to everyone was that those who came learned and grew to appreciate art and other cultural or historical artefacts. The premise of the museums makes it a great match to play a role in cultural diplomacy. With the current political climate, this would be a good time for museums to step up international strategies and host even more international scholars and exhibitions to promote cultural exchange with other nations. While this is a challenge, due to issues such as funding and Visas, it is worth the effort if it means engaging with an estranged nation and working towards building relations. China, along with Middle Eastern countries, specifically Iraq and Afghanistan, needs to be on the list of top nations for both the US and Great Britain. Currently China does not have the best image. And while they want to blame this perception on Western media, the fact remains that the government has been accused of human rights violations. No government is perfect. But, when the Chinese government detained Ai Weiwei, this did not help their image. Museums in China, specifically the National Museum in Beijing, have worked to build bridges with other nations. There have also been many exhibitions of Chinese art and cultural objects on international travelling exhibitions that will work to show citizens in other nations that there is more to China than the issues they have with human rights, despite the fact that what is being shown is mostly historical artefacts. If China is serious about promoting their current cultural identity, it may be a good idea to arrange an international exhibition of contemporary art. The government, however, may find this challenging if the art, like much of Ai’s is political and speaks out about what the artists feel is wrong with the government. This, however, is where museums and cultural diplomacy can intervene. Along with hosting the exhibition, educational events should be held as well. This would provide China the opportunity to explain their system to others and possibly resolve misconceptions.
  38. 38. 33 In conclusion, cultural diplomacy can be a powerful tool in promoting understanding and dialogue between nations. By no means is it the ultimate answer to solve major political conflicts. However, it can help initiate the resolution process. It can also be argued that if a nation has an understanding of the culture and values of another nation, this may alleviate conflict due to their established strong relationship. Museums can play a role in cultural diplomacy by leveraging their power, influence and international reputations. Museums can be the facilitators in promoting cultural diplomacy though exhibitions, education and generally promoting an open and free environment in which anyone can come and enjoy art and culture.
  39. 39. 34 7. Appendices 7.1 Brief Background and History of Museums The concept and ideals of the museum have changed and adapted to society over centuries from early Greek and Roman times, from temples filled with offerings to the gods, to the modern day museums, such as visited freely by the public. In its earliest form, museums were located in the treasury of a monastery, cathedral or church and contained precious and religious objects (Bazin 1967). During the 16th century, most collections were still private and were not held in museums but in a gallery or cabinet. The long, grand halls of the galleries usually exhibited pictures and sculptures. Cabinets on the other hand were more scientific exhibition spaces, square shaped and filled with, ‘stuffed animals, botanicals rarities, small works of art such as medallions or statuettes, artefacts, and curios.’ (Alexander, et al. 2008) These private collections were held by the most distinguished members of society and were only viewed by those associated with the owner and those who were themselves holding a high place in society. During the 17th century the first public museum opened in Basel in 1671. The next public museum, the Ashmolean Museum, opened years later in Oxford, England. While the initial intent of the museum may have been to preserve artistic and scientific creations, the idea of shaping and reforming society was also an underlying mission of the museum. The idea was to standardize and normalize the working class by exposing them to the upper echelon of society. Bennett shares how: The conception of the museum as an institution in which the working classes- provided they dressed nicely and curbed any tendency toward unseemly conduct – might be exposed to the improving influence of the middle classes was crucial to its construction as a new kind of social space. (Bennett 1995) As museums continued to be developed, the goal of reshaping society became more of the focus; bring in the working class and have them follow strict rules by observing the middle class of society. The initial thoughts were that museums could be institutions used to
  40. 40. 35 improve man’s inner life, thus, improve society. As Greenwood put it ‘a Museum and Free library are as necessary for the mental and moral health of the citizens as good sanitary arrangements, water supply and street lighting are for their physical comfort.’ (Greenwood 1888: 389) The thought of the museum being necessary and the act of moving away from social exclusion is a positive move for society. However, using the museum to modify the actions and behaviour of lower class citizens in society and the working class so that they could learn to imitate the middle class by visiting museums is not a guaranteed means of improving society as a whole. It is as if the working class is looked upon as untrained children and that the museum is used as their training ground so they will become fit to be in proper society. Museums were to be used to fix the majority of society and with the code of conduct in place; they could work towards doing so. The flaw in this idea was that in the beginning, while the museums were open to the public, the hours were limited and a request for a ticket had to be made well in advance. If the goal was to improve society, how would working class citizens be able to attend during the limited hours? Beyond reforming society, the idea of gaining knowledge and enlightenment were also hoped to be gained by visiting a museum. The museums started out with a members-only scheme in Europe that eventually led to eventually offering select viewing to the general public. While European museums were public but restricted, museums in the US offered public viewing times straight away. The first museum in the US, the Charleston Museum, in Charleston, South Carolina opened in 1773 and started out with a membership scheme but allowed the general public to view the collection of natural history artefacts. (Alexander, et al. 2008) In Washington D.C. the Smithsonian Institute started many years later in 1846 by a British scientist, James Smithson for the ‘increase and diffusion of knowledge.’(www.si.edu) and later in1873 became a national museum. The US by the end of the 19th century had officially entered the museum industry with the opening of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, New York (1869), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (1870) and the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, Massachusetts (1876). While the museums in the US
  41. 41. 36 pride themselves on democratic ideals like their European counterparts, the underlying theme was to educate and enlighten the people for the betterment of society. 7.2 Who is Ai Weiwei? Described by the New York Times (NYT) as being “a figure of Warholian celebrity” in Beijing, Ai Weiwei is the most famous living Chinese artist. His popularity grew when he collaborated with architects Herzogt de Meuron on the Beijing Olympic Stadium, nicknamed The Birds Nest and spread even more in 2008 after saying he was not interested in Chinese State propaganda or in the Olympics themselves. (Cooke 2008) Things have not always been easy for Ai. His father, famous Chinese poet Ai Qing along with other intellectuals was exiled during the cultural revolution of the 1960’s. It was a very trying time for Ai and his family. When he was 10 years old, he and his family were sent to the remote desert region Xinjiang. While they were in exile, Ai’s father was forced to clean public restrooms and was subject of intense abuse from the local villagers. The family had no proper home and was forced to live in a cave-like structure, dug into the ground that had no roof. His father was not even involved in politics; he was simply punished for being an intellectual, which was not looked fondly upon by the Chinese government during that time. The shame Ai and his family were subject to for a crime they did not commit would only make the artists stronger and fuel his creativity. It was not until 1978 that Ai’s father was exonerated along with millions of other exiled Chinese intellectuals by the government, who simply said it was a “mistake”. (Cooke 2008) Ai, at the age of 24, took the leap and moved to America in 1981 after studying at the Beijing Film Academy with famous Chinese film director Zhang Yimou. It was during this time that Ai was formally introduced to contemporary art and his desire to be an artist grew. He struggled in his early years but finally broke through in 2004 with his 1st exhibition in Switzerland. (Cooke 2008)
  42. 42. 37 It was not until Ai’s father became gravely ill that he returned to Beijing. The year was 1993 and while physically Beijing had changed, the oppression and lack of freedom still remained. Ai has since stayed in China and set up his studio in north Beijing called Beijing’s East Village as well as FAKE, his architecture practice and is the co-founder of the Modern Chinese Art Foundation. (Cooke 2008) In the last few years, Ai has been very vocal about his opposition to human rights violations in China and the Chinese government. Not one to hide behind his art, Ai feels his government is, “unimaginative, prevaricating, suspicious of its own people and utterly focused on self-preservation” and “They don’t believe in liberty. They don’t believe in China before the Communists. There is only one simple, clear task: to protect their control, to maintain their governing. Which is such a pity.” (Wines 2009) During an interview conducted from Ai’s studio in 2009, he appealed to President Obama and other western leaders to help China gain more freedom. Along with distancing himself from the Olympic stadium he helped create because he felt it sent the wrong message, Ai has also been very vocal regarding the death of over 5000 school children during the Sichuan earthquake in May 2008. Ai helped put together a citizen’s inquiry into the collapse of 20 schools that simply crumbled to pieces during the earthquake as well as the government’s refusal to give the public information on the matter. (Wines 2009) From this tragedy came the creation of Ai’s instillation “So Sorry”. Ai almost missed its opening in Munich after he was rushed to the hospital to have blood drained from his brain, this as a result of a swift blow to the head by police in China who stormed his apartment a month earlier. This act of aggression was due to Ai’s agreeing to testify on behalf of Sichuan writer and activist Tan Zuoren. Both he and Ai were investigating the deaths of the school children in the earthquake. Instead of trying to provide an explanation, the Chinese government worked to silence those who questioned the tragedy. Even with the action taken against him, Ai remained steadfast, his thoughts were, “I have taken this position because, I have to say, I am not scared. I have considered what I have to lose. My
  43. 43. 38 close friends say, ‘Weiwei, you are stupid. Some day they will get you.’ But I am not naive. I grew up in this system and my father was a victim of this system and this history. If we do not access our rights it only makes their power stronger.” (Weiwei 2008) Ai is willing to stand up for what he believes in, even if it means standing alone. Through his art work, blogs and other social media outlets, Ai continues to fight for his as well as other Chinese citizen’s rights. It is quite befitting that an art exhibition which speaks out against a government in a strong way is held in Haus der Kunst. The Haus der Kunst was built in the 1930’s to house German art. This space housed the “Great German Art Exhibition” (English translation), which glorified the “blood and earth” ideology of the Nazis. Fast forward to 2009, Haus der Kunst hosts international exhibitions and houses a variety of artworks in its space. (www.hausderkunst.de) This exhibition by Ai, his largest retrospective to date, featured 9000 children’s backpacks installed on the exterior wall of this Munich gallery. The backpacks were used to spell out, in Chinese characters, “She lived happily for seven years in this world”. This message was a quote given by a mother who lost her child in the May 2008 earthquake. There is power behind such a simplistic statement. It speaks and appeals to the Chinese government as well as the human spirit. For Ai, “So Sorry” is, ‘a show that revives the mistakes too grand to be excused, thus mocking the idea of an apology and calling for actual change.’ (artobserved.com) Ai’s artwork consistently carries a message that is similar to this, a question to authority in hopes of an answer. While he fights to get the Chinese government to allow its citizens the freedom and human rights they deserve, he uses non violent means and art to express his message to the world. Similar to the early years of modern and contemporary art, when these new art forms were looked at with fear and misunderstanding, the Chinese government looks as Ai’s avant- garde work in a similar manner. From his smashing Ming Dynasty vase photos to this Sunflower Seeds instillation, Ai’s work challenges power and provokes thought by bringing the past to the forefront and challenging authority. As Ai puts it, “Art and culture here are
  44. 44. 39 disassociated with public debate. This applies to the political landscape too.” (Weiwei 2008) There is an underlying fear of what will happen if anyone speaks up or challenges the norm. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is on a quest to maintain total control, which is not possible. The CCP may be able to take down blogs or websites (Ai’s blog has been taken down several times) or to censor Facebook or YouTube, but once contemporary art leaves China, the CCP has no further control. Ai remarked that, ‘any power or structure that seeks to maintain full control and is not open in any way to loosening its power eventually makes itself ridiculous. With regard to contemporary art and the Party this creates the impossible situation that you describe: it’s like oil and water – it can never mix.” (Weiwei 2008) Eventually one side will need to relent and for Ai, giving in is not an option. Despite everything, Ai remains optimistic. When asked if Chinese contemporary art could impact Chinese society he replied, “Somehow it still does, willingly or unwillingly, consciously or unconsciously. It is so far from the mainstream but it can reach people very slowly: through young people and perhaps through fashion. We must challenge our human intelligence. We have to be positive.” (Weiwei2008) Ai’s human spirit remains unbroken despite the many trials and tribulations he has faced in his lifetime.
  45. 45. 40 Bibliography- Books, Articles and Reports Ai Weiwei (2008) “Truth to power” Index on Censorship, Vol. 37, No. 2, Pg. 20-34 Available from: http://ioc.sagepub.com/content/37/2/20 Accessed on 28/6/2011 AICA USA (2011) “Petition to Release Ai Weiwei” International Association of Art Critics, United States Section, Available from: http://www.aicausa.org/news/article/petition-to- release-ai-weiwei Accessed on 1/8/2011 Alexander, E., Alexander, M. (2008) Museums in Motion. Plymouth, Alta Mira Press Anholt, S. (2008) “The Importance of National Reputation”, Engagement: Public Diplomacy in a Globalised World, London, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Art Observed (23/10/2009) “Go See – Munich: Ai Weiwei’s politically charged “So Sorry” at Haus der Kunst through January 17, 2010” Available from: http://artobserved.com/2009/10/go-see-munich-ai-weiwei-politically-charged-so-sorry-at- haus-der-kunst-through-january-17-2010/ Accessed on 1/8/2011 Bazin, G. (1967) The Museum Age. Brussels, Desoer Books BBC News (28/6/2011) “Chinese artist Ai Weiwei faces $1.9m in taxes and fines” Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13948220 Accessed on 1/8/2011 BBC News (7/8/2011) “Profile: Ai Weiwei” Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world- asia-pacific-12997324 Accessed on 1/8/2011 BBC News (11/8/2011) “Details emerge of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s Detention” Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-14487328 Accessed on 1/8/2011 Bechtler, C. (ed) (2007) Art and Cultural Policy in China: A Conversation between Ai Weiwei, Uli Sigg and Yung Ho Chang, moderated by Peter Pakesch, New York, SpringerWein Bennett, T. (1995) The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics. London, Routledge Besterman, T. (1/6/2011) “Support Ai Weiwei”, Museum Journal, Issue 111, No. 6, Pg.17 Available from: http://www.museumsassociation.org/museums-journal/comment/01062011- how-museums-can-support-ai-weiwei Accessed on 1/8/2011 Bingham, J. (ed) (2010) Ai Weiwei Sunflower Seeds, London, Tate Publishing Brown, J. (2006) “Arts Diplomacy: The Neglected Aspect of Cultural Diplomacy” Americas Dialogue with the World. Washington, DC., Public Diplomacy Council Cash, S. (20/4/2011) “International Furor Follows Ai Weiwei Disapperance” Art in America Magazine, Available from: http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-opinion/news/2011- 04-20/ai-wei-wei-petitions/ Accessed on 1/8/2011 Carr, D. (2001) “Balancing Act: Ethics, Mission and the Public Trust” Museum News, September/ October 2001, Available from: http://www.aam- us.org/pubs/mn/MN_SO01_BalancingAct.cfm Accessed on 1/8/2011
  46. 46. 41 CBC News (12/7/2009) “China cracks down on outspoken artist” Available from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/artdesign/story/2009/07/12/aiweiwei-criticism-china.html Accessed on 1/8/2011 Channick, J. (2005) “The Artist as Cultural Diplomat” Available from: http://www.tcg.org/publications/at/mayjune05/exec.cfm Accessed on 1/8/2011 Cooke, R. ( 6/7/2008) “Cultural Revolution”, The Observer, Available from: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2008/jul/06/art.china Accessed on 1/8/2011 Cull, N. (2007) “Public Diplomacy: Lessons for the Past,” (unpublished paper) Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California Cull, N. (2009) “Propaganda” (unpublished paper) The British Council, Available from: http://www.britishcouncil.org/new/Global/History_Propaganda.pdf Accessed on 1/8/2011 D’Hooghe, I. (2007) “Public Diplomacy in the People’s Republic of China”, The New Public Diplomacy: Soft Power in International Relations, New York, Palgrave MacMillan Davidson, M. (2008) “Cultural Relations: Building Newtworks to Face Twenty-First Century Challenges”, Engagement: Public Diplomacy in a Globalised World, London, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Delahoyde, S. (15/6/2011) “Anish Kapoor Boycotts ‘UK Now’ Show in China Over Ai Weiwei’s Detainment”, UnBeige, Available from: http://www.mediabistro.com/unbeige/anish- kapoor-boycotts-uk-now-show-in-china-over-ai-weiweis-detainment_b14718 Accessed on 1/8/2011 Demos (2007) Cultural Diplomacy. London. Demos Finn, H. (2003) “The Case for Cultural Diplomacy: Engaging Foreign Audiences”, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 82, No. 6, Pg.15-20 Fischer, A. (2009) A Story of Engagement: the British Council 1934-2009. London, Counterpoint Frock, C. (18/4/2011) “1001 Chairs for Ai Weiwei” KQED Arts, Available from: http://www.kqed.org/arts/visualarts/article.jsp?essid=51058 Accessed on 1/8/2011 Gienow-Hecht, J., Donfried, M. (2010) “The Model of Cultural Diplomacy: Power, Distance and the Promise of Civil Society”, Searching for a Cultural Diplomacy, New York, Berghahn Books Greenwood, T. (1888) Museums and Art Galleries. London, Simpkin, Marshall and Co. Gungwu, W. and Yongnian, Z. (ed) (2008) China and the New International Order, London, Routledge Hamilton, K., Longhorn, R. (1995) The Practice of Diplomacy: its Evolution, Theory and Administrations. London, Routledge Harrison, J. (2005) ‘Ideas of Museums in the 1990’s’ Heritage, Museums and Galleries: An Introductory Reader. London, Routledge
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  49. 49. 44 Bibliography- Websites http://www.ashmolean.org/ http://www.britishcouncil.org http://www.britishmuseum.org/the_museum/museum_in_the_world/world_collections_progra mme.aspx http://www.change.org/petitions/call-for-the-release-of-ai-weiwei http://www.charlestonmuseum.org/home http://www.hausderkunst.de/ http://www.guggenheim.org/new-york/press-room/news/4034 http://moma.org/ http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/unileverseries2010/