THE MENIL COLLECTION 1511 BRANARD HOUSTON TEXAS 77006.
June 25, 1999
I am writing to support with my highest recommendation the creation of the Free International University World Art Collection. The purpose of this initiative, undertaken by Waldo Bien and other members of the Free International University Amsterdam, is to establish an ongoing art collection, which represents cultural unity and the notion that cultural expression is mankind's most common and fertile ground. It is designed to unveil the secret energies which are hidden in cultural expression.
In this century, western-dominated art history has divided creative expression into hierarchical levels. The Free International University World Art Collection is designed to break down these artificial cultural barriers and build world-wide consensus which, to date, politics and governments have failed to achieve. The first step in restoring bilateral relations among divided nations has always been the establishing of cultural relations/exchanges.
The collection is analogous with the planting of a tree in which shade mankind can meet and pay respect to a common future interest. In this regard, it is especially propitious that the Dutch Triodos Bank, known for its ethical approach toward banking and investments, is lending their auspices and assistance that together, we might set a new trend for the future.
The fact that this collection will be the declared property of the world's population as the only benefactor probably makes it the first real 'modem' art collection in the world. The moment of introduction is unique: On the eve of a new millennium, an open future space.
It is my privilege to serve as a member of the Advisory Board of the Free International University World Art Collection. As such, I urgently request that all artists, individuals, multinationals, institutions, and governments support this initiative and contribute to its realisation. The global content of this united population collection should ultimately be placed under the protection of the United Nations. Future generations will be thankful to us for giving such tool into their hands.
Founding Director & Senior Curator
SEEING THE IDEA
About thirty years ago there was a strong desire in my generation to turn the idealism of the late 60’s and 70’s into practice. We didn’t just want to talk about things but really change our society for the better.
In Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, London, indeed all over Europe I knew there were students of economics of sociology and artists who had started seriously to explore what we called an alternative’ life style. There were even those who started to tackle the vision of having a different conception of the money economy creating transparency, democratic openness and ethical standards in their day to day dealings.
We believed that in the different conception of banking the idea that creativity equals capital would become a real driving force and principle. Many people at the time, I remember, were politely sceptical. But as a practising artist I was fascinated by the vision and wondered how it would be possible to find the best means to achieve it.
I exhibited a sculpture in the early 80’s called ‘Universal Bank’ in the I M F building in Washington, trying to tease out my appreciation on of what I felt was happening.
Today with the opening of the new headquarters of Triodos Bank in Zeist there is for me the personal satisfaction of seeing the idea of the Free International University World Art Collection (FIUWAC) being shown for the first time in public.
WHAT IS THIS NEW IDEA?
What lies behind the idea of such a public collection and its presentation in Zeist under the auspices of the Triodos Bank?
The idea of a new and modern collection can be formulated in terms of what Joseph Beuys, the well known German artist, has called ‘Social Sculpture’. I believe in the need to take full responsibility for the future and recognise that all our actions and activities have a direct influence on the way the world wil1 be tomorrow. How things look depends on form, and form is also a matter of shaping. I would say it is a serious question of how things are sculpted. Every society has a specific form and we can learn to look at it as a sculpture.
As individual members of society we become shapers and makers, free creative beings. How the world is, how it will be, depends on our actions now, on what we do today.
Beuys had reduced his highly complex thinking info a simple and essential proposition:
Jeder Mensch ist ein Künstler
(Every human being is an artist)
The future is the sculpture we all work on together
The Free International University (F.I.U.) was created in the early 1970’s in Germany to create a world wide platform like a permanent conference, where creative spirits and minds could unfold and be active without the restrictions of a specialist concept on of knowledge boundaries or of institutional stasis. It was to be a domain where people could meet, and work together, with freedom and creativity.
Beuys had cogently observed:
‘Economics is not only a money making principle. It can be a way of production to fulfil the demands of people a over the world. Capital is humankind’s ability in work, not just money. True economics equals the creativity of people: Capital equals creativity.’
Interdisciplinary research allows us to establish an understanding which cherishes assimilation and the common sense of different views. It is a method for the future. The false unity of globalisation suggests a smaller and smaller world, more fractured and divided into first, second and third grades, based on national products and social status Even in the domain where the creative capability of humankind becomes most visible, in our arts and cultural expression, we see things divided into the West and the rest. The common sense we seek in the interdisciplinary research and the creation of the social sculpture is a deepening of our human potential and an elimination of old imperial and other politics and ideologies, which seek to harness the cultural and creative in the service of domination, and a conception of the market as an abstract play of forces with no regard to ethical consequences.
The Free International University (Amsterdam) in which several first and second generation members participate, is a platform for a multinational exchange of ideas and research, dialogue between science, economy and creativity with individuals from al1 over the world.
In 1997, active members of F.I. U. (Amsterdam) Patrick Healy, Michael Rutkowsky, Babeth Mondini vanLoo, Gijs Frieling, Virgil Grotteldt, Hilarius Hofstede, Jacobus Kloppenburg inter al, discussed the need for a worldwide and multicultural art collection which would be owned by the entire world population, and which would enable us to overcome the barriers we have created through specialisation, and open up an understanding of what is common to our humanity as brotherhood, sisterhood, our human- kindness, our capacity to create.
We all agreed on the need for such a collection, but, as is so often the case, there was no finance to help realise the conception. Someone then suggested that the way to get this going was to ask artists for credit for this idea and to request donations.
Something unexpected happened Two of my children were playing on the ground, not far from where the discussion was taking place It didn’t occur to us that they were listening to this conversation, when suddenly they called out ‘can we give something ?’ We were surprised and charmed at the same time. Such an offer would dissolve the problem of the ‘founding stone’ in the collection, in the sense of significance and symbolic value We were being offered the future generation, not a name from the famous past, and to our astonishment, the children began to make a sculpture from things lying around the studio, which consisted of three elements. This was followed by donations from our other members, and in a matter of minutes, you might say the collection had been formed.
Then on a certain day in the Spring of 1998 there was a meeting with Triodos Bank. I had known of the existence of the bank and its principles, and it seemed they knew about us and our activities. I remember it as a pleasant and remarkable meeting. Remarkable, because they had come all the way from Zeist to my studio in Amsterdam, but could not really say why they had come. For some hours I discussed the work of the last twenty five years in which I had been engaged, and the activities of F.I U. Several months later we had a second meeting. We discussed the F.I.U collection and the possibilities of a new conception for the future. It was at that second meeting that the dormant F.I.U. collection came to Life. Specifically the idea was a freeing of the idea of a ‘collection’ from possessive individualism, or, art work as a status symbol for the leisure class. I sensed their interest and they asked me to work it out in more detail, and in terms of practical consequences. There followed several sketches in which we tried to shape the idea and exhibit the demands for its working, structure and organisation. I was thinking how such a tree could be planted which at the same time could generate its own economy. and ideally its own autonomy.
It was agreed there would be no depots or stock.
All the art works collected should have a place under the wings of Caretakers and Hosts who participated in the conception. The home of the collection is the world itself and those who take care to support it, be its keepers for a time, be it banks, companies, governments, or individuals. Public access could be mediated through the electronic network, where each development in the collection would be transparent and available for consideration.
It was agreed to build a parallel savings account in the form of
‘F.I U.tures’ which could be realised on the market in 25 years. With the sale of ‘F.I.U.tures’ the FIUWAC and so the collection could continue to generate further works, and exist in a continuing open and public sphere of creative enhancement. That was the tree which I had in mind to plant. On behalf of F.I.U. Amsterdam we would like to thank everyone who has helped with the care and protection of this idea and enabled us to make it visible
Amsterdam. 1st October. 1999 . Waldo Bien, Founding Director FIUWAC/ Patrick Healy, Board member
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