Museo en Red - a tool for agency in public art institutions - extra disciplinary research against the interdisciplinary discourse of the global virtuosity
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To disrupt the dichotomy private/public by allowing agency (inextricable from the commons) to art, activism and research through the creation of a network of networks of shared knowledge and relationships sustained over time to generate critical ideas, actions and new forms of institutionality capable of permanent commitment, questioning and negotiation.

Description of the tool

Museo en Red is a department of the Reina Sofía Museum.Through its action the Museum is positioned and affirmed as a place of collective learning, representation and enunciation, as an open and questionable archive, as a questioned debated space, put in crisis, in motion. Faced with the patrimonial model, it is committed to other institutional constructions arising from the notion of the common. Museo en Red operates in a relational framework through the active listening of the different realities and socio-historical processes in which it is inscribed (neighborhood-city-State-world), which, in turn and dialectically, permeate, challenge and affect their ways of doing. The objective of this networking is to promote collaboration devices that go beyond the dynamics of co-programming and that raise the institutional framework as a space for reflection, creation and proposal based on a common framework of co-responsibility. It is also about highlighting the differences and singularities of the different organizations that participate, no matter the scale, scope or geopolitical dimension. In this sense, Museo en Red goes beyond the logic of geographical proximity and proposes an institutionality situated socially, politically and affectively in the present context, recognizing itself as part of a broad cultural and social ecosystem.

Steps of application

Through Museo en Red, the Museum is conceived as space for agency and not of representation. 

The strategic vision is  to create structures and a network of networks with continuity over time. To direct a National Museum in the perspective of the commons, is not one-in-a-time heroic gesture. The idea is to strengthen on the one hand the public institution today weakened by neoliberalism through the creation of a network of allied institutions, and on the other the hand, to strengthen the commons by fostering alliances among those. It is also important for the public institution to respect the independence of the commons so as not those to end up cannibalized by the institution. The boundary between the political and the artistic is not defined: the institution can open a public space for agency and negotiation. In this case when relationing in the networks the Reina supports as “one among the others'.

Opposite to the extractivism of the neoliberal capitalist cultural institutions, MRS proposal generates spaces of knowledge, of another form of agency of cultural production, which during the pandemic allowed the Museum to carry on with its activities, while most similar institutions had to stop.

Timeline development of the network of networks:

2007/2010 - Red de Conceptualismo del Sur - Southern Conceptualisms Network is an international platform for collective production, reflection, and setting in common of a political position. This network was founded towards the end of 2007 by a group of researchers concerned with the need for a political intervention into the processes of neutralizing the critical potential of a set of "conceptual practices" which had taken place in Latin America since the 1970s. The affiliation between the Southern Conceptualisms Network and Reina Sofia Museum sets out to deal with the dominant circuits of cultural production, running from north to south, and replace them with horizontal programmes that include south-south routes between archives, museums, researchers, artists and institutions that are equally anomalous.

2008 - Fundación de los comunes is a laboratory of ideas that produces critical thinking from social movements understood as a tool for political intervention. It brings together a network of research, publishing, training  groups, social spaces and bookstores that pool resources to promote the democratic revolution and social equality. In this sense, their work areas are articulated around self-training, publishing and research with democratic assumptions of horizontality, independence and cooperation. Since 2008, the Foundation has collaborated with the Reina Sofía Museum in the design of a new participatory and transversal institutional framework.

2010/2013 - L’Internationale is a confederation of seven institutions of modern and contemporary art established in Europe. L’Internationale proposes a space for art inspired by a decentralized and non-hierarchical internationalism, relying on the values ​​of difference and horizontal exchange between a constellation of cultural agents anchored in the local sphere and globally connected. The institutions that are part of L’Internationale are: Moderna galerija Ljubljana, Slovenia; MCARS Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid, Spain; MACBA, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, ​​Spain; Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Belgium; Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej W Warszawie, Poland; SALT (Istanbul and Ankara, Turkey); VAM Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven, The Netherlands. L’Internationale is currently working in collaboration with the HDK-Valand Academy - University of Gothenburg (Sweden) and the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin, together with other partner institutions from the academic and artistic field.

2017 - The Institute of Radical Imagination

The Institute of Radical Imagination (IRI) is a Mediterranean-wide network, founded in 2017 by artists, activists, academics and cultural producers with a shared interest in the co-production of knowledge, artistic and political research, and interventions aimed at implementing post-capitalist forms of life. With the vocation of uniting art, activism and pedagogy, the IRI emerges as a post-capitalist institution —or "quasi-institution" - that operates as an interface between diverse spaces and agents, causing mutual contamination between academic institutions, museums and self-managed social centers. By rejecting both statist notions of public art and the incorporation of activism within the neoliberal museum, IRI experiments with critical forms of pedagogy and political economy (livelihoods), and locates its action in activist and artistic networks inside and outside the world of art with the aim of democratizing cultural institutions from the point of view of the common. The Reina Sofía Museum has collaborated with the Institute of Radical Imagination since its foundation in the development of activities and research projects related to artistic practices, culture and pedagogy in different contexts.

2018 - Museo situado - Situated Museum - is an active collaborative network of neighborhood groups and associations in the Lavapiés neighborhood in which the Reina Sofía Museum participates as part of its work in different local, national and international networks. It was born from the collective will to connect the Museum to its immediate surroundings, to its web of conflicts and expectations. It works in an assembly-based, regular and open manner: initiatives to promote are decided jointly, in a constant exercise of listening, deliberation and interpellation. This space gives visibility to campaigns, activities, projects, calls and productions, realised or in progress, promoted from the network.

2019 - La Laboratoria - Espacio de investigacion feminista - is a transnational device to support feminist activist research. It is understood by feminist activist research that developed by those who are involved in different territories, involved in conflicts and concrete struggles, with languages ​​and different and at the same time common questions. An investigation that applies the lens and feminist contempt to various processes, overflowing any drawer or pigeonhole of those considered "women's" issues.

With a presence in five cities —Buenos Aires (Argentina), Quito (Ecuador), New York (United States), Mexico City (Mexico) and Madrid—, La Laboratoria promotes activist research within the feminist tide as a situated theoretical practice that allows to collectively build position maps and analysis. Its members nurture networks of collaboration and exchange among those who seek to elaborate and conceptualize their political trajectories, at the same time that they favor the dissemination of ideas and debates on a global scale.

The Reina Sofía Museum has worked together with La Laboratoria since its foundation in 2019. 


Director Manuel Borja-Villel appointed in 2008 writes: “Neoliberalism, synonymous with privatization and progressive reduction of the public in favor of the private, has become our condition, the social, economic and political environment in which our activities have developed in recent decades. It opposes any type of government interference in the lives of citizens, firmly believes in the self-regulation of the market and perceives the State Administration as a nuisance, an obstacle to the growth of the economy. However, reality shows us that, both in its classic version of the 19th century and in the current one, this ideology has not ceased to create structures and norms, consolidating a society that, in order to preserve the freedom of the market, has become increasingly authoritarian; and in which the control apparatuses have acted in an implacable way with an obvious main objective: the defense of capital over the citizens and the common good.” The articulation of his cultural strategy was gradual, started in the1995 centenary Barcelona, branded the cool city, confronted with the era of the noglobal movement and the tragic outcome of Genoa, arriving to the crisis of 2008, Borja Villel recalls: “I clearly remember the admonition I received, as the director of Macba, from one of the museum's political leaders, when, in June 2001, the actions of Las Agencias were being prepared: «What you are doing - he warned me - is not art, it exceeds the limits of what a museum is, its statutes, and you may be committing an illegality». In his book he articulates “It is impossible to propose agency without rethinking the institution. Now, the criticism of the seventies or eighties is not the same as that of the nineties and, of course, that of this century. The links between social movements and cultural centers have changed over time. If at the end of the 1990s the institutions insisted on questioning the institutions or the relationship with them was viewed with a certain suspicion, after the great crisis of 2008 the need to occupy and democratize them has become clear. If at some point the collectives were idealized and it was thought that everything bad always came from the institution, today it is clear that these "are'' the people who work in it, with their successes and failures, and that the groups also enter into contradictory dynamics. And it goes without saying that this relationship is not identical in the North as in the global South, or in the former Soviet bloc. When the art system manifests itself in a cohesive way, it is pertinent to look for cracks. When the institutional scaffolding is fragile, it would seem that it is essential to build that relationship.” The present strategy of Museo en Red creating a network of networks of allied institutions and actors is the result of different steps and attempts in time, constantly working to develop alliances among a plurality of actors towards a structure that could survive beyond the personalistic will of one individual.

Context of origin

Visual representation

Photo credit Ela Rabasco (Ela R que R), Mesa plenária. No se puede cambiar la situación de las mujeres sin cambiar el mundo. El movimiento feminista y el sindicalismo feminista, meeting "El feminismo sindicalista que viene. Trabajadoras somos todas" organised by Museo Reina Sofía and La Laboratoria, Madrid, 20 June 2020.


Manuel Borja-Villel, Campos magnéticos. Escritos de arte y política, Arcadia, Barcelona, 2020


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