Contemporary Arts and the City

Cultural workers and in particular artists have been part of one of the most fragile and predominantly precarious sectors of work in the post-socialist socio-economies, in spite of a few glamorous exceptions and against some established preconceptions. However, creating a prominent center for contemporary arts, ideally presented within a daring piece of architecture, has long been an instrument used to affirm a sort of achieved level of civilization, like a middle-class status for the cities themselves, both in the Western world and beyond. Recent economic and geopolitical events, accumulations of capital and imperial interests have brought these two contradictory legacies to head in the semi-peripheral cities of Iaşi (Romania) and Chisinau (Moldova). Suddenly, both cities, as it turns out, have become attractive for “investors in culture”, putting under pressure the local artists and cultural workers. In my presentation I will present these two cases, which are still ongoing, and try to relate and re-situate accordingly the need for institutionalization and for institutional critique in local cultural history.