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In many cities, museums have become an important contributor to the urban culture as well as a key element of the tourism sector. Clusters of museums, such as the “Museum Mile” on Fifth Avenue in New York or the Museums Quartier in Vienna play an increasingly influential role in the construction of popular understandings of the city. But for locals, the trip to the museum or the art exhibition is also the way to strengthen their own good taste and identify themselves with city space. So today, contemporary museums seek to redefine the art museum as an institution, shift- ing from the image of the snobbish treasure house to public meeting place with its shops and café-restaurant. Aésthetist editor-in-chief Lily McFly meets Kristina Kulakova from #viennacontemporary Magazine to talk about how art dwells in the city.

Interview by Lily McFly

Photography by Kristina Kulakova

When I travel, the first thing I look for is the museum for contemporary art, because you can grasp a lot from there and see what people are up to in the city

Aé: What role does the museum of contemporary art play in the life of the city?


KK: Every good museum of contemporary art I know is much more than a museum, it is also a cafe of the museum, where you meet friends for drinks, a book shop, where you can buy art books and other cool stuff. The museum is a very important part of urban life for many people, not just the creatives. When I travel, the first thing I look for is the museum for contemporary art, because you can grasp a lot from there and see what people are up to in the city. The role of the museum is being redefined at the moment. A couple of years ago, it was very well stated in the Economist article that “museums used to stand for something old, dusty, boring and barely relevant to real life. Those kinds of places still exist, but there are far fewer of them, and the more successful ones have changed out of all recognition.”

So the museum as such is not necessarily a temple of objects anymore – especially museum for contemporary art – it exists in order to serve the public. In my eyes, the role of contemporary art institution is to be a platform, where people meet and where discourse happens, so it is not one way street when someone teaches you and says: this is right and another thing is wrong.


Aé: What role does art play in our modern lives?


KK: I don’t think that the function of contemporary art is different from that of art in general. When I think what it is to me, the first thing which pops up in my mind is that I learned so much after interacting with art or artists. It turned my world and perception of things upside-down and for me it is very valuable. With contemporary art you can meet people you would have never met, see places you have never thought existed and experience all kinds of amazing feelings. So, the main function for me is educational. American abstract painter Agnes Martin said ‘The function of art work is the stimulation of sensibilities, the renewal of memories of moments of perfection.’


Aé: What is contemporary art? And is it important to define contemporary art at all?


KK: I asked that question several times in interviews for #viennacontemporaryMag and each answer was different. Everyone meets at that it is an art, which is being produced now, so it’s contemporary to us. And that is why it fascinates me so much; you can be part of it, participate in the dialog, meet artists and witness so many exciting happenings.

Cover & photographs © Kristina Kulakova