Cardiff Breakfast Club, 18th October – Ben Borthwick, Artes Mundi

Posted: October 19, 2012 in Cardiff Breakfast Club, Events, Petersens News
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Ben Borthwick from Artes Mundi mixed business with art at this morning’s Cardiff Breakfast Club as our guest speaker

Ben promised not to pummel our business brains with too much culture as he provided an engaging overview of the organisation’s current contemporary arts prize, Artes Mundi 5 and outlined how this prize helps position Wales on a global stage.

Artes Mundi is a biennial contemporary arts initiative and is the UK’s largest visual arts prize.   The prize is proud of its non-exclusive nature; welcoming nominations from art experts to grandmothers who once admired their grandsons’ drawings. It consequently registers entries from over 100 different countries. The prize is now in its 5th cycle, and Ben joined as Artistic Director in 2010, having previously been a curator at internationally recognized institutions such as the Tate Modern.

Although many may feel that Cardiff can’t compete with the likes of the Tate Modern when it comes to contemporary art, Ben explained how Artes Mundi‘s collaboration with the National Museum entices art aficionados (and us commoners alike!) to our capital city from all over the globe.   Over 66,000 people have flocked to see each cycle’s exhibition to date and Artes Mundi 5 is likely to achieve similar figures.

The National Museum has recently invested in its West Wing – a suite of galleries dedicated to contemporary art.  Ben described art exhibitions as ‘negotiations with architecture’ and therefore these galleries not only increase, but also improve Cardiff’s capacity to display contemporary art.  This, coupled with Artes Mundi’s belief in commissioning new work, results in a unique initiative and incentive to visit Cardiff over alternative exhibitions.

But how does Artes Mundi and contemporary art really ‘benefit’ Wales?

The prize’s international nature and ambitions help the global recognition of Wales in both the arts and business spheres. The prize boasts impressive sponsorship from American bank Merrill Lynch, a major global player with whom the international ambitions of Artes Mundi resonate. Ben feels connections such as this could be used as a future building block for development.

Art also helps encourage international cultural exchange that could be put to great use in the business world.  Contemporary art often engages with wider, sociopolitical agendas and many of the artists in this exhibition address issues of international importance, such as Cuban born Tania Bruguera’s and her long-term art project Immigrant Movement International.  The fact that these issues are being brought to the fore in Wales, places us on a global stage.  Ben also explained that visual arts link local histories to the international, which is precisely what Slovenian Apolonija Šušteršič’s Tiger Bay project does by focusing on development in the Cardiff Bay area

Finally, Artes Mundi is dedicated to building relationships at a local level and establishing a legacy within Wales.  Artes Mundi is showing strong commitment to education by training a large number of teachers during each cycle, and as a consequence is introducing conceptual art into schools. It is also collaborating with arts organisations all over Wales, such as Oriel Mostyn in Llandudno, in order to help spread the benefit of this international prize throughout the nation.

Having recorded the highest attendance figures for a National Museum exhibition to date (apart from the dinosaurs!), it seems we are slowly starting to open our minds to the previously foreign concept of contemporary art, and to show pride in the international profile that Artes Mundi provides us with.

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