In the world of international art, a controversy has been unleashed by the departure of Tanya Barson, an English curator, and Pablo Martínez, head of programs, of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (Macba).
The couple departed on July 16, the day after Elvira Dyangani Ose, director of the London showroom, was appointed the museum’s new director.
Barson and Martinez were informed by email that, as a result of the restructuring, their positions no longer existed. Barson, a former international art curator at London’s Tate Modern, believes they just wanted her out.
“I firmly believe that one of the main motivations for the restructuring was a way of effecting our exit from the museum because we had permanent contracts,” he told the Observer.
The museum, designed by the American architect Richard Meier, opened in 1995 in the working-class neighborhood of El Raval. The permanent collection of some 5,000 works dating from the mid-20th century includes sculptures by Eduardo Chillida and Anthony Caro, and works by Keith Haring, Paul Klee, and the photographer Brassaï.
About 700 people from the world of Spanish and international art have signed a petition condemning the manner of the departures and the lack of consultation on the restructuring of the museum’s management.
The incident led to the resignation of two other staff members, the philosopher Marina Garcés and the anthropologist Yayo Herrero, who issued a statement calling the departures “a sad step that once again shows no consideration for staff and students.”Elvira Dyangani Ose, the new director, outside of Macba. Photographer: Quique García / EPA
Mark Godfrey, a former curator at Tate Modern, was one of the international figures who spoke. He wrote on Instagram: “They both contributed incredibly to Macba and one would have assumed that the city and the government would be very proud of these achievements.”
Donna de Salvo, senior adjunct curator at the Dia Art Foundation in New York, also posted, calling it “a classic bureaucratic maneuver without thinking about or respecting dedicated professionals for whom this is more than a job.”
Some museum staff say they are dismayed by the way Barson and Martinez left, but add that neither of them was popular with their colleagues and that Barson in particular was aloof and never really integrated, either professionally or professionally. personally.
Barson accepts that cultural differences were sometimes challenging, but he also believes that Catalan cultural institutions name outsiders for their prestige but then have difficulty accommodating them.
“I would be lying if I said that I did not find elements of xenophobia,” he said. “There is a real resentment towards someone from outside. There are few people from outside Catalonia in the team and only a couple from outside Spain. The phrase “Spain is different” was said quite frequently, sometimes with a bit of irony.
“There is a culture of denunciation in Spain,” he said. “Instead of coming to me with problems, people would go behind my back and talk to someone else about it, but then neither party would come to me and tell me this was a problem.”
In a statement, Macba rejected all of Barson’s allegations, including that of xenophobia. He states that the museum has clear protocols to address any form of discrimination or discontent, which Barson never used, and that Macba encourages freedom of expression, conciliation and equality and takes pride in his international vision.
The statement also affirms that the restructuring was not imposed from above but was the fruit of eight months of discussions and was reached by consensus.
However, Dyangani Ose, whose appointment as a board member has been overshadowed by the dispute, admitted that the departures could have been handled better. He said he wanted to reorient the museum towards key themes.
“Macba needs to become a necessary museum, indispensable for the lives of citizens,” he said. “It should be a place where memorable things happen and where people, workers and visitors are cared for. We want to foster a nurturing and caring environment at Macba. “