Last Friday Tanya Barson, chief curator of MACBA, and Pablo Martínez, director of programs at the Barcelona museum, were dismissed with a burofax that they received in their emails, sent by the manager, Josep Maria Carreté. The decision came a few hours after the announcement of the appointment of the new director of the center, Elvira Dyangani, from Cordoba, who will replace Ferran Barenblit in office. From joy to disappointment in a matter of hours before a new interference from the dome of a museum that drags one of the longest curricula in offenses against the independence of the professionals who have directed it.
This newspaper has had access to the new MACBA organization chart that was approved by the General Council last Thursday and referred to in the dismissal letters. The objective fact in which the dismissal is justified is this change in structure. In the organization chart that will mark the future of the museum, it can be seen how the cessation of these two positions, highly recognized in the sector for their work and actions in favor of critical thinking and the less represented communities in cultural institutions, supposes the decline of power of the artistic direction in the center. The management remains with the areas of social responsibility, sponsorships, press, production management and mediation and education management.
The new director will only have full powers in the area of conservation and a residual role in the direction of production and education and mediation. In the structure that was maintained until last Thursday, the artistic direction was responsible for the curatorial area, programs, production, management and branding. In this way the area of ”programs” disappears and the power of management grows ostensibly. Despite the evidence, MACBA assures that “in no case does the Management accumulate more power, but quite the opposite.”
An autonomy in question
The program area has been dismantled. “With the disappearance of an area dedicated exclusively to the generation of critical thought, the museum is put at risk of opening up debates that a priori may seem alien to the artistic, but that are fundamental for the production of imaginaries such as: debates about the end of fossil fuels, feminism and queer theory, decrecentism or decolonialism, just to give some examples. The question is beyond me, since they will not be able to exchange me for another, since the Plaza and the area disappear with me “, Pablo Martínez assures this newspaper. “I believe that behind the apparently technical reasons for my dismissal there are ideological reasons that respond to the cultural wars of the present and that are in the same General Council of the Museum in which both representatives of the City Council of” the commons “and of the Macba Foundation, which looks after its own interests, “adds the director who had been in charge for five years. The annual budget of the center is eleven million euros, the transfer of which comes entirely from public administrations.
Joan Subirats (Barcelona en Comú) has not been convinced by the ways in which the creation of the new organization chart and the dismissal of the two positions have been carried out. “Everything can be improved. But now it is time to look forward and not to the past,” the representative of the Barcelona City Council in the MACBA Social Council (together with the Generalitat or the Ministry of Culture among others) tells this newspaper as head of the Area of Culture, Education, Science and Community in the consistory. Subirats also disagrees with the sudden closure of the organization chart without the presence of the new director: “The new director will have to see if she accepts this new structure, because normally she does not have to accept it. The organization charts are closed until they leave. if it is, so it will seem normal to me that it suits Elvira Dyangani’s needs, “adds Subirats.
Along these lines, the director of the Association of Directors of Contemporary Art of Spain, Juan Antonio Álvarez Reyes, finds no explanation for the movement carried out by the MACBA dome: “Why has the structure of the museum changed before the arrival of the new director. Elvira Dyangani should not find a conditioned and altered museum without counting on her decision. It is an endemic evil in this country not to let professionals work. The maximum moment of professional autonomy at MACBA happened with Manuel Borja-Villel [entre 1998 y 2007]”, says Álvarez Reyes, director of the Andalusian Center for Contemporary Art.
An invalidated future
Until now, Pablo Martínez had had the complicity of Joan Subirats. This newspaper has learned that Subirats defended Martínez in the delicate situation that arose when MACBA decided not to renew Barenblit’s contract a year ago. This newspaper has tried to get in touch with Ainhoa Grandes, president of the foundation and whom all of them point to as executor of the changes, but it has not been possible. “It is normal that with the departure of Ferran Barenblit his positions of trust leave”, justifies Joan Subirats. The arrival of the new director, who was not the candidate of the Macba Foundation, has not been able to prevent the dismissal. “I know Elvira Dyangani and I am sure that she has presented an extraordinary museum project. But beyond her, I wonder if a directing competition can be called while changing the structure of the museum. And even more so if these changes they are produced by people who have never entered a management contest or an election. It is a clear governance problem, so it is worth asking: Who really runs MACBA? “, points out Pablo Martínez. That is why he thinks that the battle in museums is not in content, but in structure.
This Wednesday Yayo Herrero and Marina Garcés have resigned from the design and organization of the Independent Studies Program (PEI) that they had been preparing for months to develop as of September. His decision is a way of showing his disagreement with “the new MACBA organization”, in addition to the ways in which both positions have been dismissed. Martínez was flying from Croatia and landed in Barcelona on Friday, so he asked the manager that same Thursday afternoon, who summoned him to a video call for Friday in the middle of a postponement for Monday. The manager confirmed the delay of the meeting in which he would fire both positions, but did not respect it. On Friday, it issued two burofaxes to terminate them immediately. “We leave it with sadness and the conviction that the fact that these changes have been made before the new Director, Elvira Dyangani Ose joins and decides, eliminates what we believe would have been a very good collaboration”, explain the anthropologist and philosopher in a statement.