Sign up for our newsletters. You can change the settings or unsubscribe at any time.

I would like to receive the following newsletters (select at least one):

Previous Navigation Arrow

exp. 1

exp. 2

exp. 3


Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende (MSSA) in Berlin

A conversation between María Berríos and Melanie Roumiguière

Fragments of the different lives that came together in what is today known as the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende (MSSA) [Museum of Solidarity Salvador Allende (MSSA)] have passed through the city of Berlin on at least three separate occasions. These include the artists who made the folder of prints El pueblo tiene arte con Allende [The People Have Art with Allende] that circulated in Berlin after being reprinted by Fabrik K14 (Oberhausen) in 1974 and the works by Latin American artists exhibited in Künstler aus Lateinamerika [Artists from Latin America] at daadgalerie in 1982. Now material from both instances come together with selected works from the collection of the MSSA to form part of the presentation of the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende at the 11th Berlin Biennale of Contemporary Art.

María Berríos: Your research about the exhibition Künstler aus Lateinamerika [Artists from Latin America], organized by Wieland Schmied and René Block in 1982 for the daadgalerie, predates your current position there. How did you come across this material and what motivated you to look into this particular exhibition, which eventually led you to the archives of the Museo de la Solidaridad in Chile?

Melanie Roumiguiére: While working as a curator at a contemporary art museum in Berlin, I came across the publication of this exhibition by chance and was immediately struck by the fact that this had even happened in Berlin back then. I learned from the catalogue that the 1982 show was part of the Festival of World Cultures Horizonte, which focused on Latin America that year. I was very curious to know more about the Museo de la Solidaridad’s involvement but couldn’t find any information about the project.

MB: When did you visit the Museo de la Solidaridad in Chile, and how was the experience of sharing your knowledge about the exhibition at daadgalerie with them?

MR: In 2016, I made a research trip toseveral Latin American countries and included Chile in my itinerary becauseI wanted to visit the Museo de la Solidaridad in Santiago and look through its archive. During my visit there, I learned that Germany did not really participate in or support the museum and the initial idea behind it as other European countries did. I also discovered that no artists donated work during the show in Berlin, which I found quite intriguing. When I visited the archive and realized that the museum was not at all aware that the Berlin exhibition had taken place, I was happy to fill this gap by leaving a copy of the catalogue there. This project had fallen through the cracks of the museum’s own historical narration, and at the same time it seemed to have had no real impact at the time of its realization in Berlin.

MB: I think that in a way these multiple gaps and finding ways to trace and narrate the threads and stories of the lost works or the undocumented events and exhibitions that took place during those years is an organic part of the museum and its multiple lives. The museum was sustained by the energy and impetus of those involved and has followed their individual and collective trajectories. This meant that there was no single archive that could be passed on when the museum was finally able to return to Chile. During its time in exile from 1975 to 1989, as the Museo Internacional de la Resistencia Salvador Allende (MIRSA), it was a traveling museum without walls. Reconstructing this history has been taken on by an institution that for a very long time was actually just a group of individuals around the world, among them many tenacious women such as Carmen Waugh or Miria Contreras, who propelled the project forward under precarious conditions, with no physical space apart from temporary offices that Contreras had at the Casa de las Américas (Havana, Cuba). I’m interested in the feedback you received here in Berlin on your research. How did the museum where you worked react to your intention to develop an exhibition related to the history and concept of the Museo de la Solidaridad and its manifestation in Berlin?

MR: When I returned to Berlin, I presented the material and history to the team and developed the idea of a research exhibition format to present and discuss proposals and concepts for “alternative forms of art museums” in different regions and contexts. At the time, I was part of a curatorial team involved in the “Global Museum” project initiated by the German Federal Cultural Foundation to investigate possible forms of revising the collections of major art museums in Germany by questioning their underrepresentation of global art history and artistic movements. My idea was to present this research-exhibition as a logical continuation of this project on global art history that was supposed to take place in 2019. Unfortunately, the museum decided not to pursue this field of research, which strayed too much from its focus on traditional modes of art historical narration and its criteria of relevance and production of artistic value from a German perspective. Ultimately, this meant that the planned exhibition series was never realized.

MB: You later ended up working at the very institution that conceived of the 1982 exhibition. When and how did you encounter the archival material about the daadgalerie exhibition? What did you find in the files and documents from that period?

MR: After joining the visual arts department of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program in late 2018, one of my main focus points was to organize and digitize the archive, which was maintained but had not been fully organized, actively used, or shared until then. Delving into historical files dating from as far back as the 1960s and scattered among different offices and storage areas, I managed to find several folders and photographs documenting the 1982 exhibition. As I expected, no one had looked at them for a very long time and consequently the show was not part of the program’s official historical narrative despite the still existing, and quite thorough, documentation of the installation. The show’s catalogue is a very important record in understanding the institution’s attitude and motivation behind this exhibition.

MB: You told me that you also visited René Block to speak with him about the exhibition—particularly about the presentation of the collection of the MIRSA in Paris. From our exchange, I had the sense that this conversation showed some similarities to the dynamic you were describing at the museum you used to work for…

MR: Yes, I was actually quite surprised that the motivation and idea behind the Museo de la Solidaridad, especially the fact that it had become a museum in exile, was not really seen as a relevant artistic endeavor but rather more a political gesture that the “Global West” needed to acknowledge during the Cold War. My previous impression that there had been little effort to discuss the subject within an artistic scene—to think about actively engaging participation in this idea by inviting German artists to participate and donate to the collection of the museum in exile, for example—was sadly confirmed. It seemed to me that there was a problem of recognition that led to crucial aspects of the project being neglected and not taken seriously, like the historical origins of the Museo de la Solidaridad in the early 1970s, the role of the artistic movement behind it, and its developments throughout the 1980s. The archive of the Artists-in-Berlin Program contained notraces or follow-up of this project in the program’s activities or invited artists after 1982. So this absolutely did feel familiar, or even like a continuation of my previous experience.

MB: It seems so odd and is yet somehow revealing that a project such as the Museo de la Solidaridad, which emphasized the idea of artistic community by insisting that their collection could not be understood as a group of isolated, individual works but as a coherent whole founded on the political act of artistic solidarity was not considered relevant. This is especially baffling given the huge community of exiled Latin American artists, writers, and intellectuals living as political refugees in Europe at that time. From our conversations about this exhibition, I feel that the daadgalerie’s irritation with the Museo de la Solidaridad’s requirement to show all works by South American artists in the collection comes from a failure to understand the project in this aspect—the community building and allowing of access beyond the fortresses of art institutions as spaces of distinction. A structural part of the museum’s founding principles had to do with questioning the way that Western art history and museum institutions construct artistic value, as you mentioned before. In that sense, it’s interesting that the solution that the daadgalerie proposed to solve the problem of having to,show all the works, which they were hesitant about, could also be read as a kind of democratic solution. Recently the Museo de la Solidaridad used this very same display to stage an exhibition entitled Debut (2018/19) about a series of recovered works. Could you speak a little about the exhibition display and the material that we will now show as part of the Biennale?

MR: We found a record of the proposal to partially exhibit the museum’s collection on the walls—together with loans from other sources—but to show a larger portion of it on a wooden shelf, reminiscent of a storage rack, with the paintings leaning against each other. The documentation of the exhibition gives quite a vivid impression of that gesture, meant to encourage the public to interact with the works. The idea behind that display solution was to find a way to show the collection of works by artists from Latin American countries in its entirety (as required by the museum’s secretariat) while pointing out MIRSA’s precarious storage facilities in Paris. The catalogue even features a photograph taken there, which says a lot about the ambiguous motives behind the daadgalerie exhibition. Paradoxically, this display ended up connecting the two parts of that exhibition—and, as you have mentioned, was recently appropriated by the museum itself.

This conversation was published in: Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende in Berlin. 1974 1982 2020, published by the Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art and the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program, 2020

By using this website you agree to the use of cookies in accordance with our data privacy policy.

By using this website you agree to the use of cookies in accordance with our data privacy policy.