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Italian curator Beatrice Leanza announced as new director of mudac

Renowned critic, author, and curator Beatrice Leanza has been named the new director for the Cantonal Museum of Contemporary Design and Applied Arts in Lausanne, Switzerland.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Jul 14, 2022

The Plateforme 10 Foundation, which unites three cantonal museums on the site of the new Arts District in Lausanne, announced distinguished Italian curator Beatrice Leanza (b. 1978) as the new director of the Cantonal Museum for Contemporary Design and Applied Arts (mudac) in Switzerland. Leanza will succeed the current director, Chantal Prod'Hom upon retirement, to helm the prestigious Swiss cultural institution from January 1, 2023, and stated on her appointment, "Joining mudac in its next-phase development as part of the new network of Plateforme10 is a thrilling challenge and a truly unique opportunity to shape a future-driven institution that can champion intellectual generosity and creative optimism in times when we need them the most."

The Milan-born critic, author, lecturer and museum director (now based in Lisbon) has acted as executive director of the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) in Portugal (2019 to 2021). Prior to that, she was based in Beijing for 17 years (2002 to 2019), where she led many prominent projects in the field of contemporary arts and design, notably as creative director of Beijing Design Week (2013-2016), the largest public initiative in China dedicated to design and architecture. During her tenure, she oversaw the event's programming, and managed international and diplomatic relations, international communication and partnerships.

Design is a cultural expression of resourcefulness, critique and imagination - simultaneously a poetics and science of relations through which we both create and navigate reality, and build an understanding of the world we are a part of for generations to come. – Beatrice Leanza

"Beatrice Leanza convinced the selection jury with her professional profile combining a strong creative sense with internationally recognised know-how in developing innovative strategies for cultural enterprises from Asia to Europe. Her wide-ranging experience of cultural governance, from team management to relations with partners, sponsors, creative practitioners and the media, gives her all the assets needed to continue the development of mudac in close collaboration with all the Plateforme 10 teams in the museum's new setting in the heart of the Arts District in Lausanne,” shares Platforme 10. The appointment decision was announced by the Director General of the Fondation Plateforme 10, Patrick Gyger, upon the unanimous recommendation of the recruitment committee that interviewed five high-quality candidates from Switzerland and abroad.

The inauguration weekend of Plateforme 10 and the new building of Photo Elysée and mudac museum alongside the Museum of Fine Arts, Lausanne Image: Courtesy of photo.elysee

Leanza elaborates on her vision for mudac, highlighting what she intends to embrace and transform within the capacity of her new role:

One of the most endearing aspects of joining this tenured institution is its encapsulation within the new institutional framework of Plateforme10 and therefore, its potential to meaningfully explore ways to champion co-disciplinary agency and cross-sectorial collaboration, something I have long devoted my efforts to as a curator. I like to think of institutions of culture as places that weave through the biography of ideas across disparate temporal and physical planes, inhabiting a liminal space where the contamination of thinking, activism and fabulation manifest how we interact with, imagine and create the world we are a part of. The transactional character of today's creative expressions – its distinctive melange of forms of knowledge, methodologies, and technologies - owes itself to the fluid, hyper-connective nature of contemporary communication. So, for me, what is being engendered by this new 'platforms culture' is something design has a lot to do with – from the production of new philosophical paradigms to inquiries into the concept of intelligence (human, natural, or artificial), or the edification of novel biotechnological constructs that inform the making of our cities, buildings and communities.

This might sound overtly conceptual, but I believe that through design we can access and experience how ideas trickle down to shaping the reality we inhabit, and most importantly how we can look at things from different perspectives, that is ‘other-than’ or ‘more-than’ us.

To this end I prefer to think in terms of transformation more than change – mudac has 20 years of history, and my approach will be one to leverage its existing assets while creating new ways to nurture and communicate ideas across various dimensions and audiences. Although it is premature to share specifics right now, I would say that among my mainstays would be a dynamic integration of digital and offline actions that expand the museum’s reach beyond its physical confines, a critical engagement with social and civic participation, as well as supporting professional research and pedagogical experimentation through new collaborative initiatives with both the public and private sector.

With an MA in Asian studies and a specialisation in the history of contemporary Chinese art from the Universita' Ca' Foscari di Venezia, Leanza began her illustrious career at CAAW (China Art Archives and Warehouse), the historic alternative art space created in Beijing by the artist Ai Weiwei, and then went on to found two companies working on research-lead programs across the visual arts, design and architecture, in Europe and Asia. She has built a vast international network of professionals, cultural and educational institutions in the field of design and contemporary arts through numerous projects.

More than 15,000 people attended the discovery weekend of the Photo Elysée and mudac museum’s new building at Plateforme 10 Image: Courtesy of photo.elysee

Apart from her independent practice as a curator, lecturer and writer, she co­founded The Global School in Beijing (2017), as an alternative pedagogical initiative predicated on multidisciplinary creative research and the development of impact-driven projects. Leanza relocated to Portugal in 2019, to take over the management of the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (maat) in Lisbon as its executive director, where she led a full re-envisioning of the organisation's branding, structure, programming and public outreach, while spearheading a strategic digital transition that turned vital with the outbreak of COVID-19, and included the launch of the new online platform -maat ext (maat extended)- devoted to 'expanding' the museum's actions across the digital sphere.

"I am incredibly excited to embark on this journey with the team of mudac, building upon its achievements as an institution attuned with transformation and thus capable of offering itself as a public-facing platform of professional encounter, social debate and of practical agency to empower novel blueprints for cross-sectorial research, academic contamination and civic participation," concludes Leanza.

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