Longitudes

MACBA's director Manuel J. Borja-Villel to direct the Reina Sofia from end January 2008


The news broke on Saturday afternoon that Manuel J. Borja-Villel (Burriana, Castellón, 1957) will be the new Artistic Director of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS), and will start his new job at the end of January 2008. Borja-Villel has been Director of the Museu d'Art Contemporani Barcelona (MACBA) since 1998, and was founding director of the Fundació Tàpies (1990-1998). Despite his appointment not being a shock exactly, the news is important as it is one of the first appointments in Spain to follow the controversial 'Código de buenas prácticas' (Code of good practice) whereby there shouldn't be any more 'al dedo' ('made') appointments. Instead an international call for applications should be held, and was in this case, and appointments be made according to the decision of a selected international committee. And following each candidate's proposals and presentations, and not their political orientation.

That said, the decision to appoint the MACBA director has not been surprising for two reasons. Firstly, a few weeks ago the Spanish newspaper El País [15.11.07] announced Borja-Villel as the favourite for the job, together with a list of the top candidates. How were their names known when the process is supposedly strictly secret? Rightly, there was much discussion in the artistic community [read A-Desk and SalonKritik]. Secondly, the requirements for the job were that candidates should be a 'Spanish or national of a country member of the European Union' (appearing to rule out any Spanish-speaking Latin American candidates, or indeed any other non-European Spanish speaker, and clearly questioning the tip-off that had Dan Cameron shortlisted in the El País article). The candidates were also asked to have 'Excellent level of Spanish' and 'To present, in Spanish or anyone of the co-official languages in the Independent Communities, or English or French, the main lines of the Museum Plan for the Institution'. Spanish prefered, we get it. It makes one wonder what will be the requirements for the now vacant MACBA Director job, if they are to follow the 'código de buenas prácticas' with an open call.

One of the first responses to the appointment was from art critic and curator David G. Torres in A-Desk's blog, in which he briefly analysed the pros and cons of the mandate: Borja-Villel has put MACBA on the map – for sure – and has given a direction and coherence to its collection – again, yes – but it has lacked a dialogue with the city of Barcelona and its visitors. According to Catalina Serra [El País, 23.12.07], the Catalan arts community has already responded by demanding an international open call for the MACBA position, but with more time for the potential applicants to prepare proposals (candidates had a month to make their applications for the MNCARS job). Let's see what happens here; interesting times ahead! The news are, however, great for MNCARS, Spain's forever-in-crisis national museum, which has had no leading figure since September 2007, that lacks coherence in its collection, has a so-so programme, but of course holds a precious treasure in world history: Picasso's Guernica.

For more info read MNCARS' Press Release (Spanish) and the announcement in El País (23.12.07)

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Founded in 2005 by Max Andrews and Mariana Cánepa Luna, Latitudes is a curatorial office based in Barcelona, Spain, that works internationally across contemporary art practices.

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