Monday, May 16

Culture dismisses the director of the Museo del Greco

On Monday, June 7, the general director of Fine Arts, Dolores Jiménez-Blanco, summoned Juan Antonio García Castro, director of the Museo del Greco in Toledo since 2013, to her office of the Ministry of Culture. Carmen Jiménez was also in the room, deputy director general of State Museums, and an advisor to the secretary general of Culture. On the table they had prepared the immediate dismissal of García Castro at the head of the state museum, which preserves and exhibits the magnificent series of 13 Apostolate paintings made by the Cretan artist, in addition to The tears of Saint Peter, among other works of the group that is dedicated to the dissemination of the artist in Toledo at the end of the 16th century. As you may have known The reason given by Jiménez-Blanco is “organizational remodeling”, although he clarified that it was not his decision but that of his superior, the Secretary General of Culture, Javier García Fernández, who was the one who signed the order.

García Fernández assures that it was Dolores Jiménez-Blanco who made the decision. “It is not my decision. I am at the top, but the initiative is hers and I have respected her proposal. The museum must rethink what it is for, because it barely has El Greco’s work and as a house-museum it cannot continue to function,” says the Secretary General of Culture. And the current director was not qualified to carry it out? “The rethinking is a new stage and we must find a new person to do it,” answers García Fernández. He adds that it is normal for museum directors to be dismissed: “The Administration appoints and ceases. It is a freely appointed position.” Any objective reason for the termination? “You don’t have to give reasons. If we had to explain each decision, what would this be? The legal regime is very clear about it,” he responds about what could be understood as an arbitrary termination.

Jiménez-Blanco was appointed to her position last September, following the sudden resignation of Román Fernández Vaca, also ordered by García Fernández. In these months the general director of Fine Arts has gone to the Museo del Greco and has maintained fluid and constant communication with the retired director, in which she has shown her confidence in the lines of work that García Castro maintained at the head of the center and his plans laid out for the future. “I have had no reason not to feel supported by my general director and deputy director. The day of my dismissal they made it clear to me that they did not have any but against my management, there was nothing wrong with my work. I am a manager at the service of the policy of museums and I have always acted under the orders of my superiors, “Juan Antonio García Castro, a museum official for 35 years, tells this newspaper. There was also no warning for mismanagement or the like.

“I went to the appointment without thinking that they were going to fire me. I did not expect it, it has left me disoriented,” adds García Castro in a telephone conversation. “I asked if my management had to do with a decision as drastic as the dismissal of a director and so unusual in state museums. They assured me that it did not,” says the museum professional with a long career, who passes through the Museum of Archeology of Seville, the National Museum of the Spanish People, the Army Museum and the Museum of America, where he worked as deputy director, between 2005 and 2007, under the command of Paz Cabello, wife of the Secretary General of Culture and head of the assignment. As pointed out by the dismissed director, the last dismissal was that of Iván Negueruela as director of the National Museum of Underwater Archeology of Cartagena (Arqua), from which the Administration did not fare well: the Ministry of Culture tried to fire him twice, first in 2006 and then in 2010, and both dismissals were appealed and won by the one who continues to run the museum today.

Since the arrival of Juan Antonio García Castro, with his model of creating an open, dynamic and attractive institution, especially for the local population, the museum has experienced remarkable growth: it barely exceeded 170,000 visitors and in 2019, the last year before of the coronavirus, managed to gather 236,681 visitors. However, the record was reached in the Greek Year, when 288,664 people passed through the museum. According to public studies, commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, it is one of the most recommended by visitors and of the three best-known state museums. It is also a favorite among Americans, who are the majority of the 35% of foreigners who come to Toledo. In the same block is the Sephardic Museum, smaller but more visited: in 2019 it was visited by 330,250 people.

The dismissal of García Castro ordered by “organizational remodeling” leaves Carmen Álvarez, current director of the Sephardic Museum, in charge of the Museo del Greco, who will have to double her functions. The budget of the center dedicated to the Greek painter is less than 100,000 euros per year and its organizational chart includes a curator, a conservation assistant and a restorer. The room guards are shared between both museums.