CA2M (Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo) is a contemporary art museum belonging to the Community of Madrid. It opened in Mósteles in May 2008 to coincide with the commemorations for the bicentenary of the Bando de Móstoles, a declaration of war signed by the mayors of Mósteles which marked the beginning of the Dos de Mayo (2nd May) uprising against the Napoleonic occupation of Spain. The commemoration of this popular uprising was the perfect excuse to equip the region with the only museum in the Community of Madrid dedicated exclusively to contemporary art. In the relatively short time since it opened, CA2M has gone on to become a key agent in articulating the narratives of contemporary Spanish art.
Providing opportunities for intellectual leisure and continuously stimulating curiosity, CA2M has a mandate to affirm the present or, put another way, to question it. Dedicated to cultural experimentation, the art centre examines many basic issues, such as: the meaning of art in today’s culture and society; the political effectiveness of art and culture; alternatives to conventional models of working with art; an analysis of the art institution’s role in perpetuating symbolic and economic power relations; education as a process of ongoing investigation; concepts related with community life and, more specifically, the role of the periphery in major cities today.
The past, of the art centre and of the collections it holds, is like an archive in construction, always open to new meanings coming from a critical present, which will help to cast light on a future that, more than confronting or fighting against the challenges it faces, co-opts them as possibilities for cultural cohabitation. The current demand for polyphony and the construction of a multiplicity of possible sociocultural narratives calls for boundless institutional imagination and also for a continuous reinvention of its space for its potential audiences. The art centre is a place where the knots of cultural narratives are tied and untied in a fluid and disseminated temporal movement, but from a strategic geographical position. Contemporary art is a social field with a stake in the emancipatory power of representation, for which the reconstitution of the complexity of the past to understand the present is a particularly germane task, capable of activating cultural production in its surrounding environs though with global horizons and effects.
CA2M’s location in Móstoles allows it to question the complex definition of the metropolis and its role in contemporary culture, by articulating its bond with its surrounding environs in the south of the Community of Madrid, albeit with a vocation to reach beyond these boundaries. For this reason the relationship with its audiences is one of CA2M’s chief concerns. Given its geopolitical position in the south of Madrid—its cultural offer is within the immediate reach of over one million inhabitants and, in a slighter wider radius, of the five million inhabitants in the region—the centre is fully engaged with innovative mediation strategies to ensure that art fulfils its function as an intellectual stimulus in contemporary culture and society.
Located in the centre of Móstoles, CA2M is housed in a new building on the site of an historic old building known as La Casona. Covering a total of 5886 square metres, the art centre has various exhibition halls divided over three floors, an auditorium seating one hundred, a cafeteria, a library and a roof terrace designed to host open-air activities. It also has admin offices and research spaces, as well as storerooms conditioned to hold the works of the collection. The initial architectural design by Celia Vinuesa and Pablo Pérez-Urruti was modified in 2016 with a series of ‘acupuncture’ architectural interventions by Andrés Jaque/Office for Political Innovation to lend it a singular character.
CA2M is the custodian of the Community of Madrid’s contemporary art collection, which was first started in the early eighties with the acquisition of works from exhibitions held in its various venues. Since 2013, it has been further enriched with the deposit of the Fundación ARCO Collection, which grows every year with the addition of major artworks acquired at the ARCO contemporary art fair in Madrid. The narratives of the two collections, together accounting for around two thousand artworks, complement each other: the more international ARCO collection helps to contextualise the visions of the CA2M Collection, more focused on Madrid and Spain. These holdings have an intermittent presence in the centre in temporary exhibitions, that lend it meaning and put it in dialogue with happening international trends, allowing it to be studied and be known in greater depth, as well as experimenting and questioning the languages and formats of exhibitions. It is also showcased in capsules inserted at different points throughout the museum walkthrough, thus continually renovating the vision of its holdings.
At the present it is not only necessary to collect, conserve, exhibit and interpret, but it is equally urgent to frame and contextualise the artworks in a collection under the light of new art practices and within the context of the relationship between the museum and its audiences. In this way, its core aspects are brought under a critical optic while other marginal aspects can become primordial narratives for new generations, in a dialectic vision that renews the collection from its manifold potentials for interpretation.
As opposed to the teleological temporality of conventional History and to the ordinary time of productivity, there are also other subaltern temporary modalities, like that of cultural workers, colonial flows, gender readings or regressive history. As such, the collections disconnect from a thematic synchronicity with markets in order to engage with possible readings that involve studying their own idiosyncrasy: how they have evolved, how they grow, how they have been used and how they have travelled are questions needing to be investigated—as demanded by art practice and institutional critique today—in order to continue building a solid future.
CA2M is a container for reflection in which the exhibitions have to be understood as its backbone, as a maximum intensity in ways of connecting with society. The exhibition programme is a mutual support structure for the rest of the departments at the museum, a link for the production and dissemination of artistic discourses and projects.
Working on a relationship in real time and synchronisation with international art contexts must necessarily involve a recovering of the genealogies of our own production: discursive attention to the material culture of contemporary art in Madrid from inside and outside its boundaries.
The group exhibitions, curated by various experts, give rise to viewpoints on happening art, its relationship with popular culture and the problems of society today. In the case of solo shows by emerging Spanish and international artists, the art centre lends particular emphasis to the production of new projects to create new works of art.
Activities and Education
The main art centre of a community must be a support structure with a mission to participate in the construction of a high-quality public culture. To this end, since CA2M first opened it has placed special emphasis on its programme of activities, ranging from traditional events like symposiums, screenings or debates to more novel formats to bring contemporary culture into contact with the flows of highly diverse audiences. Its programme has become an international benchmark in Spain thanks to its approach not only to accompany its programme but also tangential to it, being able to expand the diversity of its audiences and their diverse capacities for attention. While at once working on the local community level, its networking, forms of collaboration and co-production allow it to have a presence in a multiplicity of geographies, making it a unique case within the European institutional field.
Its wide-ranging programme makes it a centre with a permanent and intense activity with various peaks throughout the year: the audiovisual offer in winter with the Cinema on Sundays programme; courses, such as the by now classic But …is this art? run by Universidad Popular, in autumn and winter; working with specialised collectives such as the Rompe el Círculo association in the Roof Garden;artist residences;creative workshops; Picnic Sessions, a programme of performances and concerts held between the end of May and the beginning of June every year on the roof terrace, and during the Autoplacer self-publishing music festival at the end of September which are a benchmark in the Community of Madrid for their diversity and appeal. In this regard, the roof terrace is particularly apt for certain activities or artists’ interventions, minimum yet with a highly symbolic value, tying in with the art centre’s general programme. These should all be understood as CA2M’s constantly growing immaterial heritage.
The centre’s educational activities are predicated on the principle of intellectual hospitality, of welcoming and of respect for different positions, making the art centre a place for dialogue in perpetual present. Here education is viewed as a process of ongoing investigation, connecting with various interest groups, like young people, families and teachers, and its themes are focused on the individual body and the collective body and the generation of methodologies for debates on the cultures of the image. Its main goal is to replace the regime of mechanical explanation with another more open one that will enable people to build their own knowledge, accepting mistakes as failed attempts that deserve to be shared and to be seen as steps forward to other hitherto unknown questions and towards other ways of confronting reality.