Salonul de proiecte announces the launch of an initiative that sets out to activate in an unique way one of Romania’s most important photographic archives, that of Mihai Oroveanu, art historian, photographer, and director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art from 2001 to 2013. Although photographic archives are of undisputed cultural importance, many of Romania’s collections and archives of photographs have been dispersed, destroyed, or lost their original identity, since there has been no strategy designed by Romanian public cultural institutions to preserve them. Fortunately, the Mihai Oroveanu Image Collection has been well preserved and it is in the care of Anca Oroveanu. The team of Salonul de proiecte have taken on the task of making it accessible, bringing it to the attention of the general public and integrating it into a contemporary cultural discourse that problematizes the role of the image in interpreting the past and present.

Over the course of The Photographic Image Between Past and Future project, financed with the support of EEA Grants 2014 – 2021 within the RO-CULTURE Programme, Salonul de proiecte’s premises will become a hybrid space, merging the functions of an institution dedicated to the study and exhibition of photography that combines the task of research and preservation—comprising scanning, cataloguing, indexing, and online publication—with the organisation of public events. The archive as such, partly reorganised and systematised, is integrated into a specially conceived structure whose role is twofold: on the one hand, it will host the archive materials, allowing the team’s permanent access to them, and, on the other hand, it will provide a display area for the presentation of images included in a series of exhibitions. Over the course of the project, three thematic exhibitions are scheduled, which will make visible a number of areas that are extensively represented within the corpus the archive; they will focus on architecture and public space, representations of gender, and vernacular photography. Each display will be accompanied by interventions due to contemporary artists, conceived in relation with original materials from the archive and the researched themes. This institutional format, compressed over the course of one and a half years, can be viewed as an anticipatory experiment—a pilot project for an institution to come—as well as a means of making transparent the typically invisible work of an already existing cultural institution that more often than not captures the public attention only through the perspective of “the event.”

The main aim of this project is to preserve and bring into public circulation an archive of photographs of enormous cultural and historical relevance, and, at the same time to organise around it contemporary art activities, in keeping with the profile of Salonul de proiecte, which has always combined various directions of research with the production of art and discourse. This initiative marks a new stage in our organisation’s activity, enabling it to create new jobs and offer professional training opportunities, thereby contributing to a much-needed specialisation in the field of researching photographic archives, a field that is underfunded and under-supported.