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Duty-Free Art

This is a file published in 2012 by WikiLeaks. It forms part of WikiLeaks’s Syria files database. The file is called “316787_Vision Presentation—Oct 30 2010 Eng.pptx,” in PowerPoint format, dated October 2010. It details Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad’s plans for the future of Syria’s museums. Her foundation aims to establish a network of museums to promote Syria’s economic and social development and strengthen national identity and cultural pride. The French Louvre is listed as a partner in developing this plan. Both the Louvre and the Guggenheim Bilbao are named as role models for a redesigned National Museum in Damascus.

A conference is planned to unveil the winner of an international competition for the design of this National Museum in April 2011.

However, three weeks prior to this date, twenty protesters were “reportedly killed as 100,000 people marched in the city of Daraa.” By then, invitations for the conference had already been issued to a host of prominent speakers, including the directors of the Louvre and the British Museum. On April 28, 2011, Art Newspaper reports that the conference has been cancelled due to street protests. The winner of the architectural competition for the National Museum has never been announced.

To build a nation, Benedict Anderson suggested that there should be print capitalism and a museum to narrate a nation’s history and design its identity. Today—instead of print—there is data capitalism and a lot of museums. To build a museum, a nation is not necessary. But if nations are a way to organize time and space, so is the museum. And as times and spaces change, so do museum spaces.

Read the full article here.