Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives (C-MAP) is a cross-departmental, internal research program at The Museum of Modern Art that fosters the multiyear study of art histories outside North America and Western Europe. Founded in 2009, C-MAP emerged from a long history of international outreach at the Museum, including recent projects of the International Program and numerous curatorial initiatives. It exemplifies the institution’s broader goal to nourish a nuanced understanding of the history and legacy of modernism in the Museum’s collection, exhibitions, publications, and education programs.
Structure of C-MAP
The initiative, composed of over 60 staff members from 16 departments, is currently organized into three research groups that focus on modern and contemporary art produced in Africa, Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe. Each group invites eminent scholars, artists, and curators to lead regular seminars according to a geographically focused curriculum and conducts research to build local contacts and firsthand knowledge. In addition, C-MAP fosters long-term strategic partnerships with distinguished cultural institutions worldwide. As a result of these combined efforts, the groups develop a better understanding of the works already in MoMA’s collection from the areas of study, just as they seek to create a deeper knowledge of the broader historical context for future acquisitions and programs.
Online publication: post
post: notes on modern and contemporary art around the globe is the public face of the C-MAP research initiative. post seeks to spark in-depth explorations of artistic practices and contexts, and of the ways in which modernism is being redefined. With a primary focus on modern and contemporary art outside North America and Western Europe, the website invites contributions by individuals and institutions from around the world and makes behind-the-scenes research at MoMA available to a broader public. Essays, interviews, trip reports, artists’ commissions, archival materials, translated sources, and bibliographies reflect new research perspectives that continue to emerge in art history today.
C-MAP groups regularly invite domestic and international scholars and artists from around the world to the Museum and have taken numerous trips to their regions of focus. These research activities have contributed significantly to a greater geographical diversity in the Museum’s exhibition and acquisition programs.
In 2016 a fourth C-MAP group was initiated to support interest across the museum’s departments in art in the context of Africa. The group began with a survey of works by African artists in the collection, and has commenced a survey of decolonization and post-colonial modernisms since, with an emphasis on selected sub-regions and countries, focused on the period 1955-1979. During this chapter of research, we will explore the role of anti-colonial rhetoric from the mid-1950s, and political independence and decolonization in the making of modern art and artistic subjectivity in Africa. Looking at various case studies relationally, the intersection of developments in artistic practice and identity, and sweeping changes in the political, social and economic spheres will be considered.
The Asia Group has addressed art across the continent. With an initial focus on performativity in postwar Japanese art, the group first organized its programs and activities around MoMA’s exhibition Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde (November 18, 2012–February 25, 2013) and the sourcebook From Postwar to Postmodern, Art in Japan 1945–1989: Primary Documents (MoMA Primary Documents series, 2013). The group then expanded its temporal scope into the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s and its geographical focus to wider East Asia—especially China and South Korea, as well as Taiwan and Hong Kong. Beginning in 2015, the group focused on histories of the modern in art across the Indian subcontinent and South Asia. Since 2020, the group has focused on the art histories, contemporary practices, and conceptual frameworks of art in Southeast Asia and its diasporas to address and look beyond categorical and canonical understandings of ‘Southeast Asian art.’
Central and Eastern Europe Group
The Central and Eastern Europe Group started with an in-depth focus on the Museum’s Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection, which includes works by Fluxus artists from Central and Eastern Europe. Since then, the group has amplified its research to various conceptual and experimental practices from across the region. After a subsequent multiyear focus on Russia, and specialized sessions dedicated to the publication of the Primary Documents book Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe: An Anthology, it turned to consider more closely art from Yugoslavia, in conjunction with the exhibition Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980, and extended its conception of Central Europe to encompass the German Democratic Republic. Marking the centenary of the Bauhaus in 2019, the group took the international school in Germany as a jumping-off point to look at historical issues of gender and interdisciplinarity. The program was then devoted to the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Mapping some of the most urgent aspects in the artistic and political contexts of the region, the group foregrounded the themes of transnationalism, gender and racial diversity, and strategies toward social and environmental justice. The current area of study concentrates on the cultural and sociopolitical contexts of modern and contemporary art in Georgia.
Latin America Group
After an initial focus on abstraction in Latin America, the group examined the cross-pollination between literary and artistic scenes in Chile and Peru. The group then spent a year researching Colombian modern and contemporary artistic practices, followed by an extended focus on the visual and performative practices of the Caribbean and its diasporas. In 2020, C-MAP Latin America merged its program with the Cisneros Institute and began to concentrate its research on the relationships between art and the environment in contemporary Latin America. The research topic aims to address how artists, theoreticians, feminist thinkers, ecologists, and climate change activists, among many others, have been rethinking our relationship to territory, resources, and cultural traditions in the region and proposing what seems to be a major cultural shift for the region in terms of its conceptions of development.
The C-MAP research groups periodically organize joint sessions between all four groups, which enables members to think more deeply about how the Museum might best address a global view of modern and contemporary art. Past seminars have been organized around the topics of performativity, transnational histories and nonaligned networks, multiple modernities, international networks, global collecting practices, and challenges of museum display.
The Museum of Modern Art’s Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives (C-MAP) initiative is supported by The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art.
Major support for the C-MAP Africa Group is provided by The Ford Foundation. Additional support is provided by Wendy Stark Morrissey.