MIMA’s Raphel Cruyt on opening a new museum

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Raphael Crut and Alice van den Abeele

Rafael Cruyt (1973) is, together with Alice van den Abeele as well as Florence and Michel de Launoit, founder of MIMA, Brussels’ newest museum which opened to the public last Friday, 15th April. In an extended interview conducted back in February that we first ran in our latest edition and which includes previously unpublished parts, he talks, reinventing models for the future and what’s that name all about.

What are MIMA’s founding principles?

MIMA’s starting point is the emergence at the start of the millenium, alongside the energy revolution and the communication disruption, of what one would refer to as “culture 2.0.” Which is why the culture defended by the museum is empathic, participative and mobile. What this means, for example, is that the artistic leanings of the museum will take into account, amongst other things, the people’s opinion, because this new culture, the ethos of the museum, is one that begins with a bottoms up approach.

This new culture, the ethos of the museum, is one that begins with a bottoms up approach.

What would you say was the key factor behind its launch?

We live in a period where it seems necessary to reinvent new models for our future, and this project shares this value. Ten years ago would have been too soon because, without a bit of historical distance, no one could have measured the impact of the changes that were to come. So the idea for the museum took form progressively, in line with the subcultures that converged towards a more mainstream version of this “culture 2.0.”

What would you say are the museum’s intentions and ambitions?

MIMA has to develop itself to become a significant player in our society, locally as well as on a European level. Today, globalisation points towards a need to bring people closer together in order to devise ecological, economic and social solutions. Our “culture 2.0” is a tool that contributes towards the emergence of this cosmopolitan conscience on a worldwide scale and that is one of the objectives of MIMA. Opening a museum in 2016 dedicated to intro-disciplinary art that is accessible and empathic is somewhat of a militant statement.

Opening a museum in 2016 dedicated to intro-disciplinary art that is accessible and empathic is somewhat of a militant statement.

What exactly is going to be exhibited at the museum?

The works of international artists, working all kinds of mediums as well as in-situ installations. One of the main caracteristics of the exhibited works will be an easy comprehension of them for an audience not necessarily well-versed in contemporary art.

Can you talk to us about the various different spaces within the museum?

MIMA will occupy an emblematic venue in Brussels : the former Bellevue breweries right by the Canal, in Molenbeek. Spread out on a surface of 1,000 square meters, the ground floor will hold a restaurant, a shop and a conference room. The first floor will be dedicated to temporary exhibitions whilst the second floor will be divided between temporary exhibitions and the permanent collection. The third floor will also be dedicated to the permanent collection as well as have an access to the rooftop for one of the most breathtaking views of the Canal. Then, alongside the museum’s program, we will also organise satellite events such as musical performances or conferences.

Its name is pretty long-winded, can you talk to us a little bit more about it?

MIMA means Millennium Iconoclast Museum of Art. Millenium because it underscores the period with which the museum will begin its investigation as well as the period in which the museum exists. Iconoclast because it symbolises the mobile and transcending caracter of our culture. Museum because it’ll remain a conservation space, where the studying and sharing of knowledge is paramount. And art because, well, it allows us to construct a collective storyline.

Every generation has a duty to reinvent its own identities codes and models, and this is our attempt to do so.

Can you talk to us a little bit about the location itself?

As I said earlier, the museum is located on the commune of Molenbeek, which when you read the news, is portrayed as a “No Go Zone.” Reality is very different though. For years, there have been two Molenbeeks : one that is sectarian, violent, closed and backward-looking, and another that is in full swing and multiculturel. First artists flocked to the neighbourhood, then bobos such as myself and, today, Europeans. And it is precisely for this diversity that we chose this location on the Canal.

Did the regional government of Brussels play any role in the creation of the museum?

MIMA is a private initiative that is welcomed by the autorities. We did indeed apply for certain subsidies from the authorities that will surely help us if they can.

To what extent do you feel the museum adds something to Brussels’ cultural landscape?

MIMA’s concept is very different from the rest. Its cultural positioning, its financing as well as its chosen venue help to prove it. Every generation has a duty to reinvent its own identities codes and models, and this is our attempt to do so.

Looking to the future, what does success and achievement look like to you?

Success to us would be that MIMA is carried by an intelligent community that is sufficiently developed and mature to participate to its collective storyline. See it as a form of participative democracy, one where history is written by all.

MIMA’s inaugural exhibition “City Lights” includes work by Maya Hayuk, Swoon, Momo and Faile and runs until 28th August.