Two prominent Spanish academics quit Barcelona MACBA in protest over sacking of two senior conservatives


Barcelona’s contemporary art museum, MACBA, has been embroiled in a scandal after the museum unceremoniously fired two senior executives, chief curator Tanya Barson and head of programming Pablo Martínez, as part of a organizational restructuring.

Barson, a highly respected former curator of Tate, and Martínez, another prominent curator, accused MACBA management of trying to wrest control of the museum’s programming from its director and curatorial staff. They had both worked at the facility for five years.

Spanish anthropologist Yayo Herrero and philosopher Marina Garcèz, who headed MACBA’s independent studies program, have resigned in protest against the move.

In a post shared on social media, Barson and Martínez said they were fired in an email from museum director Josep María Carreté on July 16, a day after the restructuring was approved.

The new structure sees the director of the museum absorb the two posts of principal curator and regroup their departments under one roof: a direction of conservation and research.

Barson argued that this would empower the museum administration, headed by María Carreté, and make the art director “a lesser and more symbolic role” by overseeing fewer senior executives.

The news came just as it was announced that Elvira Dyangani Ose, formerly a rising star director of the London Showroom, would become the museum’s next director. Dyangani Ose did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The restructuring also created a new education and mediation branch, which Barson says makes it part of visitor services rather than a content and research division. The changes “do not meet any objective need and have as their main consequence the constitution of a model of museum management in which neoliberal governance is placed on the design and development of content,” she writes.

Spanish academics Herrero and Garcèz, who were working with Barson and Martínez on the museum’s independent education program, shared their resignation letters on Twitter, writing: “Neither the emphasis on the new organization of MACBA, nor the dismantling from the PEI leadership team. the way in which the layoffs of Pablo Martínez and Tanya Barson went, makes us feel at ease or allows us to carry out the tasks entrusted to us.

Meanwhile, other members of the art world have shared their support for the curators on social media. Gallery owner Kamel Mennour called it “shocking” and former Tate curator Mark Godfrey wrote that the decision was “outrageous.” Dia Art Foundation senior curator Donna de Salvo called him “classic bureaucratic maneuver without thought or respect for the dedicated professionals for whom it is more than a job.

In a statement, the museum said the decision to fire Barson and Martínez came from the former director, Ferran Barenblit, and that the proposed restructuring has been underway since October. “No dismissals are welcome and we regret the written communications which were sent as a last resort due to the inability to meet these people,” he said. “This does not in any way imply that the administration has accumulated more power, quite the contrary,” he said, adding that the change had been made by the governing bodies “in order to adapt it to the post scenario. -COVID “and be” closer to its citizens “.

The MACBA has been embroiled in scandals for several years. Former director Bartomeu Mari resigned in 2015 after sacking curators Valentin Roma and Paul B. Preciado and canceling an exhibition when they refused to remove a controversial piece of art. The couple then sued the museum and received € 50,000 each in damages.

spanish exit El País further reported that there had been an uproar behind the scenes at the institution, where Barson was not always well-liked. A former colleague complained at the point of sale that she “forced us to hold meetings in English” and “never learned Spanish or Catalan”. Some critics were also not convinced by his curating a recent exhibition dedicated to Felix Gonzales Torres.

Spain’s Culture Ministry, which partially approved the decision to fire the employees, did not respond to a request for comment.

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