Saving the utopia but recognizing the reality
The story about Aramco, the wealthiest corporation raises little sympathy in the cultural sector. Should we ignore their, seemingly, magnificent cultural ITHRA project? Someone will one day have the courage to bring "Cyclops" to tell their side of the story. If Apple, Coca Cola or alike, some other global corporation in the world, made a similar museum of special architecture and “cultural” software, would we tolerate it as much as to give it the attention? As museums worldwide stumble and tatter trying to save their ambitious public programmes we witness the civil society's outcry for their autonomy and integrity. However, things on that side of the societal spectrum are happening and they do it more and more in a rather spectacular way: private projects want public recognition and claim it without intermediaries. Remember “museums” of Ferrari, Vuitton, BMW, Prada and many others. Only a few decades ago, a corporation would wish its name on a plaque at the entrance of a prestigious museum. A few decades ago, a big, important private /company museum was easily tolerated curiosity. The world is changing in front of our eyes and it fits no inherited models or usual frameworks. The US was always a different case and even there, since the beginning private initiative behind notorious, famous big museums (Guggenheim, Norton Simon, Frick, Melon…) took care to attain serious public image by its charity status and involvement of profession.
So, the grand projects from the "other side", from the proverbially arrogant corporate world is there to stay and multiply. What shall we do? By “us” I mean the institutional culture, the still existing public sector which did not give up its dreams and its utopias. For quite a while, we shall continue to live in a heritage sector constantly and increasingly affected by the reduction in public financing. The trend is not going to reverse. Moreover, the overall societal memory configuration will be actively changed by the corporate and financial sectors. Whoever provides the funds also determines how they are spent. Should we ignore reality or face the reality? It is about the control package of shares in the public memory project. Whichever way, we shall need to have the firm stance and criteria, to serve our mission with the changing circumstances. Remember that great corporations have already entered our sector on many occasions, increasingly on their own criteria but rich enough to demonstrate also the use of the best expertise the members of the profession can offer. Many, to be fair, respect the current, mainstream professional criteria and demonstrate some respect for our cause.