Spain: Censorship controversy affects international art committee

Censorship row sees three Spanish music directors resign and a petition protesting decisions of the board of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art

In March 2015, Bartomeu Marí resigned as the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona (Macba) after a censorship row over a controversial installation on display at the museum, which shows the former Spanish monarch Juan Carlos being sodomized by the late Bolivian labor leader Domitila Chúngara, who is in turn being mounted by a grinning wolf.

The piece, by the Austrian artist Ines Doujak, was included in the exhibition The Beast and the Sovereign.

Marí initially cancelled the show on the eve of the launch, saying that the installation was “inappropriate and contradictory to the museum’s line”. He later recanted, and stepped down; the exhibition opened to the public on 21 March 2015. Two curators at Macba also involved in the show, Valentín Roma and Paul B. Preciado, were dismissed.

In April 2015, the board of International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM), CIMAM’s board publicly endorsed Marí’s position as its president. According to Hyperallergic, this decision has now made three museum directors resign from their positions as board members for the CIMAM, dissatisfied with how its top figures have handled and responded to the debates over censorship.

On 16 November 2015, Van Abbemuseum Director Charles Esche, SALT Director of Exhibitions and Programs Vasif Kortun, and Mathaf Arab Museum of Modern Art Director Abdellah Karroum announced their joint resignation, citing lack of confidence in the organisation’s board in general and specifically with CIMAM President Bartomeu Marí following the censorship case.

Mari’s candidacy for the post as Director of South Korea’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) have also sparked protests from the local art community, protesting the top candidate for the position.

A group called Petition 4 Art launched a statement and petition against Marí’s likely appointment. On 18 November 2015, the petition had received over 800 signatures from artists, curators, and other cultural figures. Signatories include artists Kim Beom, Lee Bul, and Haegue Yang as well as curators Seungduk Kim to Binna Choi. Their concerns stem directly from the Spanish museum director’s role in the censorship controversy.

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