The pandemic and the art of being a museum

By Daniel Reichel

“The coronavirus crisis has in all respects sped up some changes we were undergoing and has brought problems that already existed into the spotlight. After their abrupt closure, the cultural institutions began asking themselves: What exactly is our role? Do we have one or not? As they have all, to different extents, reinvented themselves and found other ways to promote their own culture, especially the museums, I think they responded well”.
The negative dynamic of the pandemic has therefore had at least some positive effects: we rediscovered the role of culture in our lives and institutions were pushed to put themselves in the game, explains the director of the Museum of Modern Art of Tel Aviv Tania Coen-Uzzielli to Pagine Ebraiche.
“This change will affect us permanently, even when we return to being a normal cultural institution, one that opens the doors, and highlights art in the traditional way. At the same time, we will continue, I believe, to use different platforms as well as different ways of thinking to reach a wider audience. This means we will try to be an institution that is less tied to a specific sector.
As the director of the Museum since 2018, Coen-Uzzielli has been awarded Knight of the Order of the Star of Italy in recent weeks, a prestigious recognition from the Quirinal Palace. “I am very happy about this honorary award. I believe it represents my efforts to serve as a bridge between the Italian culture and the Israeli reality properly”.
During the lockdown, the first step was to put everything online and offer different proposals for each age group on various platforms, be it our website or social networks”. “Each channel has its own target. We have thus built in-depth courses for adults, interactive games with artworks for younger people and out-and-out educational programs for children”. However, a museum is above all a physical structure. “We wanted to maintain physical contact with the public, to get them to meet the real art. Since the institution was closed, we launched a pioneering project: we entered the city of Tel Aviv, took permission and projected video artworks of Israeli artists on the facades of the buildings. We arrived there with a car and some projectors, sending out a message: “since you can’t go to the museum, the museum has come to you”. A symbolic act, highlighted Coen-Uzzielli, but aimed at reminding “that looking at art together, even if socially distanced, is part of the experience”.
Another element the director highlighted as important is the mobilization of the museum to support artists. “We created a network and encouraged the donations and acquisitions of Israeli art so that artists, who maybe had had the exhibitions cancelled, could have some form of support”. Since Israel reopened, the public’s response has been that of great participation.
“We are happy to have our museum full at all times. We have built a bond with the local community, we have enlarged and strengthened it and it is a heritage for the future. Now, we invite everyone to come and see us and of course the other museums, as well”.

The article was originally published on July 2021

Translated by Oyebuchi Lucia Leonard and revised by Gianluca Pace, students at Trieste University and the Advanced School for Interpreters and Translators of Trieste University, interns at the newspaper office of the Union of the Italian Jewish Communities.