‘Come as you are’: how an ICA London director is rejuvenating a museum…by hosting late-night parties.

Benji Onsal is determined to add these forgotten elements to the foundation she has been leading since March last year. It’s the Institute of Contemporary Arts – plural. Often called the ICA, the institution has been a cradle for some of the greatest creative minds from various disciplines since its inception 75 years ago. But in recent years, the Museum of Fine Arts has often been seen as a museum of visual arts.

Ansal wants to correct this misconception. The ICA is not just [about] Contemporary art. No, it always was [about] The director told Artnet News. “We have two cinemas. We also have a concert venue. We do amazing shows, visual arts and plays. We do the nightlife and do concerts. We are not just one thing.”

Indeed, the ICC has long positioned itself as a leading space for contemporary culture of all kinds, and the nsal application aims to allow a “rebalance” in the institute’s “interdisciplinary programme”, according to the ICA’s statement on onsal’s appointment. The 47-year-old comes from a music background, having worked in the industry in her native Turkey before leading IKSV Salon in Istanbul; She moved to London to become Head of Contemporary Music at Southbank Center in 2016.

Institute of Contemporary Arts

The exterior of the ICA in London. Photo: Mike Kemp/Images via Getty Images

The Foundation’s 75th Anniversary celebrations run from now through April 2023, and feature an action-packed program packed with live events, from music and art performances to parties and late-night raves. Her birthday party, “PRESENT”, is taking place on February 1st. (The ICA has a license to stay open late.)

There are also many upcoming exhibitions of film, motion picture works, and visual arts exhibitions to look forward to, including Germain ripThe UK’s premiere solo show for institutions, which opened on 21 February. Resetting the ICA Interdisciplinary Program – since leaving Focused on the visual arts Director Stephane Kalmar – not just a slogan. It’s also the desire of the foundation’s president, Wolfgang Tillmans, to get audiences going again after the pandemic, and to “return the ICA to a sustainable footing,” he said. guardian.

Bring the Party Back: INFERNO, ICA, 2020. Photo by Ann Tetzlaff.  With permission from the ICA.

Bring the Party Back: INFERNO, ICA, 2020. Photo by Ann Tetzlaff. With permission from the ICA.

For Onsal, this new direction of the ICA has another layer of meaning: reshaping the perspective of contemporary culture and the way we understand the idea of ​​artists in the 21st century.

“This is a place that looks at artists in an unpacked way… We don’t define artists as visual artists, musical artists, etc,” said Onsal, adding that the main audience for ICA is 35 years of age or younger. “This is even more important now [for] Young generation. They don’t want to identify themselves with art forms.”

The director noted that events where people can come together are especially important as people emerge from social distancing and prolonged lockdowns. “We are a platform for artists. I don’t care if you are a painter or a musician. Come as you are,” she said.

One of the International Kart Association's 75th Anniversary posters, featuring award-winning actress Tilda Swinton, who sits on the Board of Directors of the International Council of Sports Medicine.  With permission from the ICA.

One of the International Kart Association’s 75th Anniversary posters, featuring award-winning actress Tilda Swinton, who sits on the Board of Directors of the International Council of Sports Medicine. With permission from the ICA.

“Looking back at the day it started, artists were trying to find a space that could be an alternative to the Royal Academy because they thought it was too boxy,” Onsal said. In recent years, notable artists have featured Sonya Boyce, Neil Belova, and Bernadette Company.

There is a logistical aspect to hosting events and parties as well. It is hoped the approach will boost its revenues: 21 per cent (£862,441 / $1m last year) of the ICA’s total budget comes from Arts Council England but, like many of its neighbors across the city, it faces deep funding cuts. . In November 2022, Arts Council England decided reallocate funds for arts bodies outside London. The ICA has received support from the UK Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, but nonetheless faces a loss totaling £600,000 ($742,668) over the next three years.

“That is the challenge. Finances have also been eroded by staggering inflation, a rising cost of living, and soaring energy prices,” Unsal noted, adding that her breadth of experience when it comes to organizing self-financed events may be a lifeline. The International Association Anniversary Auction was Last fall’s Civil Aviation, organized with Sotheby’s, is a big help, too: It raised more than £2m ($2.4m).

RIP Germain ، <i data-recalc-dims= Genie Likan (2023). Courtesy of the artist and the ICA. ” width=”1024″ height=”768″ srcset=”https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/RIP-Germain-Lekans-Genie-2023-JPEG-Version-1024×768. jpg 1024w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01/RIP-Germain-Lekans-Genie-2023-JPEG-Version-300×225.jpg 300w, https://news.artnet. com/app/news-upload/2023/01/RIP-Germain-Lekans-Genie-2023-JPEG-Version-50×38.jpg 50w, https://news.artnet.com/app/news-upload/2023/01 /RIP-Germain-Lekans-Genie-2023-JPEG-Version.jpg 1400w” sizes=”(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px”/>

RIP Germain, Genie Likan (2023). Courtesy of the artist and the ICA.

The ICA is also open to partnerships with foreign institutions. The Taiwanese Ministry of Culture commissioned the installation and performance by Taiwanese artist Yin Chun Lin Here, the nut dropswhich ran from November 27 to December 4, 2022; Fashion brand Bottega Veneta will support her birthday party on February 1st. Dice ticket app supports its music show. Onsal is also in talks with other foreign institutions about future partnerships.

“We are definitely in the middle of a transition. I think we are all on the road now together,” Onsal said, looking out at the London skyline through the large windows in her office. “I think we can all see clearly now, and we will go there together.”

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