Museums Leaders Voice Help for Former Director of Reina Sofia

Right now, February 1, Spain begins its seek for a brand new director of Madrid’s state-funded Museo Reina Sofía following the 15-year management of Manuel Borja-Villel, who stepped down on January 20 and announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election. In an open letter first printed in Hyperallergic, museum leaders within the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Luxembourg voice their help for the previous director, who has confronted right-wing attacks that characterised his progressive programming as political propaganda. The letter is included in its entirety on the finish of this text.

“The impulse to write down this text was our sturdy hope and request to the Spanish authorities that they preserve the success of Museo Reina Sofia because it opens a brand new chapter,” reads the letter, signed by administrators of 14 museums together with the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and Kunstmuseum in The Hague, and Germany’s Museum Ludwig in Cologne. “Towards the unfounded latest criticism of the programme and the employees, we ask that the brand new director and current staff are inspired to construct upon Borja-Villel’s insurance policies. The federal government has supported Museo Reina Sofia to permit it to develop into what it’s at this time.”

Borja-Villel immensely modified the Reina Sofia, wildly rising the museum’s recognition, tripling customer numbers to a 2019 pre-pandemic excessive of 4.5 million. Along with different large undertakings, the director added social and political contextualization to the museum’s hottest works (together with the gathering’s crown jewel, Pablo Picasso’s 1937 portray “Guernica“), rehung the gathering twice in an effort to create new inter-artwork dialogue, expanded the establishment’s deal with up to date artwork, and deepened the museum’s deal with Latin American artwork.

As he did so, Borja-Villel additionally obtained a barrage of criticism through which his reorganizations had been attacked for being overly “political” and “ideological.” The Spanish right-wing newspaper ABC additionally tried to smear the director with allegations that he broke museum legislation when he renewed his contract in 2013 and 2018. The Reina Sofia denied this accusation and Barjo-Villel has stated that the declare didn’t have an effect on his choice to step down.

Charles Esche, director of the Netherlands’s Van Abbemuseum and a recent artwork and curating professor on the Central Saint Martins on the College of the Arts in London, is without doubt one of the letter’s signatories.

“In the entire of Europe, it’s a extremely essential cog within the mechanism in making an attempt to make artwork one thing greater than a luxurious good,” Esche instructed Hyperallergic, explaining that earlier than Borja-Villel started his time period as director, massive European museum such because the Reina Sofia had been nonetheless considered “treasure troves.”

Esche used the director’s “Rethinking Guernica” mission for instance. Not is Picasso’s masterpiece characterised as a one-off work of genius from a star artist; now the portray is contextualized throughout the historical past of the Spanish Civil Battle and hangs close to different paintings from the identical time interval, together with propaganda paintings decrying Franco’s Fascist regime.

One other letter in solidarity with Borja-Villel, printed Monday, January 30 in E-flux, garnered over a thousand signatures from cultural staff starting from artists and professors to administrators and curators at establishments such at London’s Tate Trendy, Hong Kong’s new M+ Museum, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.

“What the Reina Sofia represented was a mission that de-colonized and de-modernized, and that’s what’s so necessary — it was the most important museum that did that,” Esche stated.

Learn the open letter in help of Borja-Villel under.

The Reina Sofia in Madrid (through Flickr)

A very long time in the past the Low International locations of what’s now Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands had been a part of the Spanish royal lands and we within the north had been very conscious of what Madrid needed to say to us. Now, and over the previous decade, we have now as soon as once more been watching the Spanish capital intently, a minimum of within the subject of museums. Listening to final week that its director Manuel Borja-Villel had determined to not apply for an additional mandate, we felt compelled to behave.

It was Manuel Borja Villel and his dynamic staff of collaborators who pushed apart the controlling affect of the trendy artwork museums in New York, London and Paris on our insurance policies and imaginations. He created the house for us to inform the story of artwork otherwise, another intimately related to social change over the previous 150 years. Reina Sofia is at this time the main trendy artwork museum internationally. Everywhere in the world, latest assortment shows are impressed by what Museo Reina Sofia has performed and the paradigms that Borja-Villel has launched. One in all his excellent insights was that the relevance and fantastic thing about artwork would solely be strengthened by presenting it on an equal degree and in fixed dialogue with images, movie, structure and archival supplies. Fifteen years in the past, this was barely seen in museums besides in occasional momentary artwork exhibitions. Right now it’s commonplace. Borja-Villel and his staff succeeded to wield such affect as a result of this formal innovation was the result of a better one: a need and capability to embed artwork in additional common reflections on aesthetics, ethics, fashionable tradition and types of governance.

Because the influential US novelist Octavia Butler stated: “the one lasting reality is change” and the character of that change is what Museo Reina Sofia has so skillfully portrayed in its exhibitions over the previous years. It’s a museum that follows the very best artists and retains them shut. It’s all the time crucial to the restrict and propositional to a fault. It addresses points which can be typically the neuralgic factors in society, by no means frightened of no matter reactions could come. It’s eager to pay attention and study with out compromising the duty of addressing change — to the purpose that the phrases “trendy,” “artwork,” and “museum” are themselves put into query.

Borja-Villel’s coverage embeds artwork in its society. His latest assortment shows tackle the results of colonialism, extraction and poisonous masculinity in addition to the reactionary authoritarianism of our present age. His work is all the time located within the historical past of Spain and Madrid whereas connecting to many different areas and histories. The latest historical past of exhibitions on the museum renders seen the distinctive and galvanizing capability of artwork when it’s put in dialogue with visible tradition. They open up the inventive worth of ephemeral media similar to posters, banners or editions. Uncared for artists, types and media are instantly set in a brand new mild within the museum. That is what has made our visits to Museo Reina Sofia the previous years so distinctive and so enriching.

The museum rightfully addresses delicate however very important points about which there isn’t a consensus. It chooses to make these public and provides audiences the prospect to replicate and type their very own opinion. Its exhibitions choose nice works after which change our view of them by inserting them in visible ecosystems. They liberate Dali from the cliché of Dali; they put Picasso again within the pavilion of the Spanish Republic and shed a brand new mild on the artwork of Antonio Saura. One in all us recollects how throughout a sure version of Arco one might categorise worldwide guests relying upon which exhibition on the museum they referred to. When asking “Did you already see the exhibition in Reina Sofia,” some would confer with the exhibition of Latin American artists resisting the dictatorships, others to the Cisneros assortment of concrete artwork. The programme of Reina Sofia embraces all these totally different types of inventive follow and offers them the respect they deserve.

With its 3 to 4 million guests yearly, Reina Sofia proves that our societies need trendy and up to date artwork greater than ever, but in addition that this museum’s means of relating artwork to life and to our collective capability for renewal reaches folks in a really direct means. The impulse to write down this text was our sturdy hope and request to the Spanish authorities that they preserve the success of Museo Reina Sofia because it opens a brand new chapter. Towards the unfounded latest criticism of the programme and the employees, we ask that the brand new director and current staff are inspired to construct upon Borja Villel’s insurance policies. The federal government has supported Museo Reina Sofia to permit it to develop into what it’s at this time. For that we give thanks. We ask you now to assist take it ahead because the very important place it’s at this time. Artwork, artists and publics, together with within the Low International locations, will likely be eternally grateful.

Bart De Baere, director M HKA, Antwerp
Yilmaz Dziewior, director Museum Ludwig, Cologne
Charles Esche, director Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven
Denis Gielen, director MACS-Le Grand-Hornu, Mons
Stijn Huijts, director Bonnefanten, Maastricht
Kasia Redzisz, director Kanal, Brussels
Pierre-Olivier Rollin, director BPS 22, Charleroi
Bart Rutten, director Centraal Museum, Utrecht
Dirk Snauwaert, director Wiels, Brussels
Bettina Steinbrügge, director Mudam, Luxembourg
Benno Tempel, director Kunstmuseum, The Hague
Philippe Van Cauteren, director SMAK, Ghent
Sara Weyns, director Middelheimmuseum, Antwerp
Rein Wolfs, director Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam