What is an Art Center?

When one looks at contemporary art exhibitions today, one often doesn't think about where to see them. Whether it is an art center, a museum or a gallery does not play a major role because it's the exhibition cont ent, a topic, or the artist that one is interested in. Some may think that an exhibition venue is just a structure, an exhibition occurring, but there is actually a big difference in how different types of institutions work. An art center is non-commercial, i.e. unlike galleries; they do not sell the works on display. Art centers are financed mainly through public funding and private foundations. In art centers, as in museums, there is a professional academic art leadership that ensures exhibitions of a high academic standard. The big difference is that while art museums through their collections have a historical perspective, art centers show mainly contemporary art exhibitions. In light of this, the art centre has a special capacity with which to discover and promote new artists.

An art center can be regarded as a spearhead for innovative and experimental contemporary art that not only exhibits, but also channels the issues that arise in contemporary social debate. As an institution, the art centerfunctions very well as a base for contemporary art’s diverse forms of expression and requirements for room for experimentation, innovation, dialogue and process. We are both flexible and adaptable, and can therefore take current issues under discussion. Art centers create innovative, discursive spaces, working across media, providing space for artistic research and teaching and participating in the current debate on contemporary culture. Despite the fact that art centers in some cases act as museums and museums as art centers, the art center is always characterized by being a setting for vibrant and innovative art without being bound by historical considerations.

The art center can best be described as a platform where art can be tested and weathered in a professional environment that plays against and challenges contemporary art. This fosters a flexibility and dynamism that the fewest museums or larger art institutions can match. The art center’s often smaller organizational str ucture makes them more supple and adaptable to change. One can compare an art center with a laboratory where artists, mediators and technicians work intensely together. The finished products are the exhibitions that are always changing and rarely last more than a few months at a time.

As art centers do not have a permanent collection the exhibition program is often planned with other parameters in mind. It may be that the art center has a theme foreach year or a special focus that differentiates it from other art centers. For example Fotografisk Center show camera based art and Den Frie
Art Center has a focus on collective exhibition formats.

Foto: Frida Gregersen

Photo: Frida Gregersen