The debate about a museum for contemporary art in Bulgaria flares up and dies out during the whole transition period after 1989. It bursts out every time it is needed when some prime Sofia real estate is on the agenda; or when some foreign money is to be had under the obligation to demonstrate a change in the policies for culture; or as a challenge to either critique of the national tradition or foreign interference into whatʼs considered “ours”. It dies out when the money evaporates; when the real estate is used (or not); when it deteriorates to who has become more of a museum item. The mixed up overlay in Bulgaria of “modern” and “contemporary”; of “gallery” and “museum”; and of complex interests has driven the debate into a local version of the post-modern (due to lack of modernism) irresponsibility and relativity of the terminology. In the context of just as mixed up understanding of what belongs to the domain of state, or public, or private sphere(s) the state is constantly expected to do “something”. Provided its obvious incompetence, the state issues confused laws, inapplicable decrees, and primitive “economic” pronouncements that are al- ways removed from both the existence of our contemporary art or its contacts with the international art world.
There is no discussion on what would be the basis for such a museum; what is there and what could be there; what would be its tasks? We ask these questions for a long time – letʼs mention the MUSIZ action of Ivan Moudov from 2005 within the Visual Seminar project of ICA – Sofia. The already existing art collections – state controlled, municipal, or the few private ones, could be more involved with the art practices of today without any change of their status (for in- stance, the Sofia Art Gallery). But they do not do so. So, we are banging yet again on the worn-out desire to have a special structure for the art of today. Its imaginary necessity replaces the lack of a program. The twisted correlation between architectural models for the future museum and its establishment reduced the whole issue to who will commission it, who will build it and who will control it. The tasks defined by the Ministry of Culture remain vague, and the juries it authorizes are strange; local or foreign ex- pert opinion is always avoided.
The debate should go on. ICA–Sofia is publishing the “Museum Issues” of the Visual Seminar newsletter. There are essays written by members and friends of ICA who answer the question “What would you like to see in a museum for contemporary art in Sofia?” There are two surveys - with individuals from the Bulgarian cultural scene on the topic “Why do you visit museums for contemporary art?”; and with art professionals from all over Europe experienced with such institutions – “Provided you have the chance and there is the institution already in existence – what would you expect to see in a museum of contemporary art in Sofia, Bulgaria?”