25th International Council of Museums General Conference

September 1-7, 2019

Kyoto International Conference Center

Learn more at icom-kyoto-2019.org


Cai Guo-Qiang delivers keynote speech at the 25th International Council of Museums General Conference in Kyoto
Image: Miao Sun

(Kyoto, Japan) The 25th International Council of Museums (ICOM) General Conference was held at the ICC Kyoto (Kyoto International Conference Center) from September 1st to 7th, 2019. This triennial “Olympics of the museum world” attracted thousands of professionals, including directors of major museums from all over the world. Welcome remarks were delivered by ICOM’s president as well as a member of the Imperial House of Japan, among others. The conference theme, Museum as Cultural Hubs: The Future of Tradition, aimed to highlight the museums as “networks,” supporting collaborative partnerships with one another, as well as museums as “cores” invigorating communities at the local level. World-renowned architect Kengo Kuma, Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and photographer Sebastião Salgado, and artist Cai Guo-Qiang were invited to deliver keynote speeches.

Keynote speakers: Kengo Kuma, Sebastião Salgado and Cai Guo-Qiang

On September 4th, Cai shared his keynote “My Museum Years” with roughly 4,500 guests at the Conference, along with a video he made for the event. The artist, through his series of museum projects around the world—from the solo exhibition concurrently held with the exhibition of Terracotta Warriors at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, to Everything is Museum projects that founded a series of museums in Iwaki, Fukushima and other sites in the world where building museums is challenging, to solo exhibitions in recent years in the palaces of Western art: The Pushkin State Museum of Fines Arts in Moscow, The Prado Museum in Madrid, The Uffizi Galleries in Florence, The National Archaeological Museum of Naples, to the artist-curated exhibition Non-Brand 非品牌  at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York—Cai discussed a range of issues relevant to today’s museum landscape.  How can museum classics stimulate adventures in today’s art? How did museum specialists become shamans for artists? How can we create museums adored by local community, reaching beyond a cultural tourist brand for foreign visitors; nowadays when building museums has been turned into a global fashion, when contemporary art has become increasingly refined and elitist, what is the relationship between the museum and the community?

Cai Guo-Qiang delivers keynote speech at the 25th International Council of Museums General Conference in Kyoto
Image: Miao Sun

“In 2013, after the opening of my solo exhibition at Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA) in Australia, at 11pm, when the security guard had just left, I snuck into the gallery and swam in the pond that is part of my installation Heritage! I was always quite satisfied with this secretive and mischievous achievement…years later, the museum director told me that he had known it right away at that time. The security guard saw me on the monitor and immediately called him asking what to do. The director replied, ‘Let him swim!’ The security guard said something like, ‘Alright, it’s very cold in the gallery anyway. I don’t see him staying there for too long!’

The 25th International Council of Museums (ICOM) General Conference at the ICC Kyoto

I appreciate the invitation from ICOM and the President of the Japanese National Committee for ICOM for me to be able to share ‘My Museum Years.’ I am deeply moved and grateful that for over thirty years, countless individuals from the museum world—from directors and curators to security guards—have helped me to realize many of my dreams. I would also like to thank the Japanese art world, especially friends in the museum world. They allowed me to grow into a wild animal in Japan decades ago, and I have lived wildly all over the world ever since…”