Collecting Architecture Territories samples and presents the research of twin studio and seminar courses held at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) that have emerged from an art-architecture, cultural-academic collaboration between the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary Art and GSAPP. The studio and seminar reflect on the relationship between architecture and collecting, considering architecture both as an agent that organizes, supports, and informs various contemporary collecting practices, and as an object of collection in its own right. In tandem with DESTE and GSAPP a team of graduate students in the Department of Architecture at the University of Thessaly have been invited to exhibit their own research developed in parallel to the project’s theme.
One of the most significant developments reshaping the domain of art and architectural practice over the last three decades is the veritable explosion of institutions and foundations that have emerged out of private collections. The sheer breadth and diversity of such institutions—ranging from experimental new museums to renovated industrial, commercial, or military buildings, and from long term installations to highly temporary exhibitions—demands analysis. Collecting Architecture Territories proposes that the historical institution of the museum, forged by the culture of the Enlightenment, is no longer sufficient to describe the expanded territory in which the practices of artists, collectors, curators, and architects now operate. By extension it asks if our understanding of collecting itself has been altered by recent architectural articulations beyond the space of the museum and new art institutions.
The studio focuses on the context of contemporary Greece through a variety of collection circumstances, including the European Union and sovereign association, state debt and revenue collection, and the city understood as an assemblage of cultural assets, speculating upon these findings through research and design. The city of Athens and its environs provide a space for reflecting on global architectural collecting practices, from those of UNESCO World Heritage sites, to the European border management and collection facilities of Frontex. The seminar investigates contemporary discourses on collecting and compiles a survey of spatial and economic information comprising over 50 different institutions that have emerged from private collections since 1980. The institutions outline a global territory that stretches from Hobart to Oslo, ranges from metropolitan cores to rural villages, and spans a spectrum from the largest private collections to small, agenda-driven foundations. The emphasis upon territory highlights the spatial proliferation of various collecting activities, which have shifted from the traditional centers of power to operate across a new constellation of global cities, and increasingly, a range of “non-sites.” This spatial diffusion of contemporary art collection and the particular conditions in Greece serve as lenses and points of departure for further speculation concerning architecture’s relationship to the infrastructures of movement, the networks of circulation and financial investment, the technologies of protection, as well as the strategies of viewership and exposure implicated in the territories of collection.