Announcing the MINI Museum of XXI Century Arts

Posted by Domenico Quaranta | Tue Sep 21st 2010 7:05 a.m.



«There is no such a thing as a copy. In the world of digitalized images, we are dealing only with originals - only with original presentations of the absent, invisible digital original. The exhibition makes copying reversible: it transforms a copy into an original.» Boris Groys

«One could of course argue that this is not the real thing, but then - please, anybody - show me this real thing.» Hito Steyerl

The MINI Museum of XXI Century Arts (also known as MMAXXI) is a 7'' digital photo frame bought on eBay equipped with a 4GB pen drive. Founded and directed by Domenico Quaranta, the MINI Museum has been designed to store and display the art of the XXI century - that is art that takes, has taken or can take digital form, at some time in its life, and can thus be stored on a USB pen drive and displayed on a digital photo frame.

The MINI Museum will travel from node to node around a network of artists, and will host temporary solo shows by the artist owning it at the time. All the artworks shown in the MINI Museum will enter the permanent collection of the Museum itself. The Museum will return to the Director when there is no more storage space left. The process is scheduled to start on October 15, 2010, when the MINI Museum will officially be given to its first “temporary owner”.

The MINI Museum addresses issues of copyright, ownership, networking, versioning, sharing, curating, collecting and displaying, but also of space and time, scale, history-making, preserving and forgetting.

A space for XXI century Arts

The architecture of the MINI Museum has been designed employing the most basic display media devices available today. Digital frames are cheap, kitschy, easy to use and understand. They are the ideal gift for your granny. Designed to display mainly digital photos, most of them support many other media formats as well. USB pen drives made both CD-ROMs and DVDs dead media in the blink of an eye. 4GB pen drives are currently the smallest, cheapest format available on the market. Both digital frames and pen drives are beautiful examples of digital waste, since they are both used to store and display absurdly heavy files. The MINI Museum wants to turn this waste into a resource: an architecture to store and display art.

The MINI Museum can display artworks in jpg, mp3, mpg and avi format. Any artwork adopting one of these file formats is eligible to be shown at the MINI Museum and enter its collection. Furthermore, any artwork that, according to its author, can be legitimately translated into one of these formats without losing its status of “artwork”, is eligible to be shown at the MINI Museum and enter its collection. This means that the MINI Museum can virtually store and display any kind of art: digital images, animations, photographs, videos, software, music scores, texts but also paintings, drawings, installations, sculptures, architecture, performances and so on.

This is why the Museum has been called “The MINI Museum of XXI Century Arts”. Many attempts have been made to describe the arts of the XXI century, and much emphasis has been put on the fact that a new art requires new media. Bullshit. If there is any lowest common denominator between the arts of the XXI century, it is not the fact that they are digital, but the fact that they can all be translated into digital form, or exist temporarily in digital form. Not all contemporary art is media art, but all contemporary art can be mediated. Thus, all contemporary art can be displayed via a digital photo frame, or stored on a USB pen drive.

The way the MINI Museum is conceived reflects the shifting identity of contemporary art in a networked, globalized, information-based world. It's light and portable. It can travel. The collection won't be the result of an act of individual selection: it will be the unexpected, dynamic result of friendship connections and casual meetings, fair play and mischief, and dynamic interpretations of its rules. All this will become part of the history of the Museum - and art history in general.


The MINI Museum was directly inspired by the Nanomuseum, founded in 1994 by the Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, and by the Pirate Paintings conceived in 2009 by the Greek artist Miltos Manetas. The Nanomuseum was a little frame, bought by H.U.O. in a store set up in Düsseldorf by the German artist Hans-Peter Feldmann. Throughout the Nineties it housed many solo exhibitions by the likes of artists such as Chris Marker, Yoko Ono, Gilbert & George, Christian Boltanski, Jonas Mekas, Gabriel Orozco, and the architect Cedric Price. Its final show was supposed to be by the artist Douglas Gordon, who was going to organize its funeral, but then the Museum was lost in a pub. The Nanomuseum was a free museum, without a regular programme and, of course, without a collection.
The Pirate Paintings are oil paintings featuring the logo of The Pirate Bay and equipped with a pen drive or a hard disk full of files (including Manetas' collection of Neen artworks) that visitors can freely download to their laptop or mobile phone.
Further inspiration came from Marcel Duchamp's Boîte-en-valise, the Fluxus boxes and Andy Warhol's Timeboxes.

How it works

1. After buying the digital photo frame and the USB pen drive and setting up the MINI Museum, the Museum Director will hand it over to an artist. From then on, he will have no control over the life of the Museum until the end of the process.

2. The artist will make a work for the Museum, set it up, put it on show for an unspecified length of time, document the exhibition, send documentation to the Director and hand the Museum over to another artist. This is a recursive rule: that is, all temporary owners of the MINI Museum have to follow this one basic procedure.

3. Only the “temporary owner” of the MINI Museum can decide who the next one will be. He or she might choose to lend it to a close friend, or to somebody they just met. But the artist may also choose to pick up a name from a growing list of applicants. If you are interested in joining this list, please send us an email at the following address: With luck, you could be the next one.

4. The process ends when there is no storage space left on the pen drive. The artist adding the last work to the collection is to take care of the MINI Museum until he or she has a chance to give it back to the Museum Director.

5. From then on, the MINI Museum Director will be in charge of curating the Museum - rearranging the collection, lending pieces to other museums or exhibitions, restoring pieces, etc.

6. Before starting the process, the MINI Museum Director will store a README file on the USB pen drive containing additional instructions for the artists. Each participating artist is kindly invited to follow these rules. But since the Museum Director does not have any control over the process, all artists are free to decide, at any time, that they do not wish to follow one or more of the rules: potentially deleting other artists' works, stealing them, selling them, renaming them, reformatting the pen drive, or donating just one 4GB artwork and then giving the Museum back to the Director.

More info:

The MINI Museum Unboxing Ceremony:

Domenico Quaranta
Director, The MINI Museum of XXI Century Arts
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