ON COLLECTING #4
Independent Art Theorist
Former Curator at Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation, Nicosia
– Can you tell us about your role at the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation?
From 2018, I was the curator of the Foundation’s Contemporary Cypriot Art Collection. I am currently a postdoctoral researcher working in the project “ReInHerit-Redefining the future of cultural heritage, through a disruptive model of sustainability” funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The ReInHerit project is proposing an innovative model of sustainable heritage management. The proposed model will be based on the development of a digital cultural heritage ecosystem, where all the key stakeholders (museums, heritage sites, policy makers, professionals and communities) will have an open and collaborative space to experiment, share and innovate. This will be achieved through the creation of an innovative Digital Hub. Tools and resources (on training, conservation, preservation, knowledge creation, content use/reuse) will be shared through the digital platform that will host the ecosystem.
– How was the collection initially created? Can you refer to significant moments in the history of the collection?
The Collection of Contemporary Cypriot Art began alongside the creation of the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation in 1984, when the bank transferred to the Foundation about fifty paintings and sculptures, which were purchased from time to time by the bank. The ultimate aim was the gradual formation of a representative group of works that would outline the evolution of artistic creation in Cyprus.
A significant moment in the history of the collection was the exhibition Rooms to Contemplate / Content and Perspective of a Collection in 2017 curated by Savvas Christodoulides. The aim of the exhibition was to lay emphasis on emblematic works derived from the Collection along with works courteously loaned by artists of the younger generation. A host of paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs and video art, many of which displayed for the first time, contributed to the establishment of an exhibitory condition, indicative of the development of the history of art in Cyprus from the beginning of the past century to nowadays.
– What is the focus of the collection and how has this changed throughout the years?
The Contemporary Cypriot Art Collection numbers more than 800 works of art, paintings, engravings, video-art, sculptures, ceramic art and mixed-media art created by well-known Cypriot artists of the 20th and 21st century (the oldest work dates back to 1930 and the newest to 2013).
Throughout the years, the Foundation’s aim has been to enrich the collection and bring together a representative group of works that can serve as a historical retrospective of the development of the visual arts in Cyprus in the course of the 20th and 21st c., whilst reflecting the social and artistic movements of each era. Since 2013 the purchases have stopped. However, the aim of the foundation is to promote the purchase of artworks again.
– What is the Foundation’s strategy regarding exhibiting the collection or showcasing aspects of it? How do you see its role within the wider cultural scene in Cyprus?
Currently, the collection has not been gathered in a single and permanent exhibition space: most of the artworks are kept in the storage room of the foundation and another part of it is located in the offices of the bank. The storage room where the works are kept has recently been fully renovated with all the specifications required for safekeeping. A group of researchers are working on the collection with the aim of creating a catalogue that will include all the information regarding the artworks and artists. The long-term goal of the Foundation is the gradual concentration of as much of the collection as possible in a single exhibition space, the operation of a programme that will encourage and support artists by presenting their work and bringing the public in contact with local and international trends.
The Contemporary Cypriot Art Collection is the largest private corporate collection of Cypriot art. It can certainly play an important role in research and education in regard to the art in the 20th century in Cyprus.
– Is the collection accessible by researchers and the public?
Τhe collection is accessible to researchers or anyone who is interested to view it. One needs to obtain access from the person in charge since the artworks are not exhibited in a museum space.
– How do you imagine the future of the collection? What is the strategy for new acquisitions?
In my view, it is important to create a space where the works can be exhibited and be more accessible to the general public. For now, there is no strategy for new acquisitions
Monika Asimenou is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation. She teaches History of Art at the Cyprus University of Technology and the University of Nicosia. She also works as an independent art theorist and curator.
Monika has obtained a PhD at the University of Paris Ouest-Nanterre on Ηistory of art in Cyprus after 1974. She received her MA in Visual Arts from the University of Pantheon-Sorbonne and her BA in Visual Arts from the University Paul Valéry of Montpellier. She has worked at the Delegation of Cyprus to UNESCO, has curated many exhibitions and published a number of articles.