1675370898 In defense of a spirited museum and its admirable director

In defense of a spirited museum and its admirable director

In defense of a spirited museum and its admirable director

I am afraid of the criticism and the attempt to damage the image of the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid during Manuel Borja’s tenure. I am amazed and disappointed by the bad sentiment towards a director who has endeavored to integrate Latin American art and thought into the Spanish scene, thereby no doubt expanding the latter to transform it into the immense universe of Hispanic American in contemporary history. We have all benefited from this effort, both Spain and the societies across the sea, inhabited by so many Spaniards after fleeing authoritarianism in the so-called “Spanish exile” and by so many migrants who have been searching for decades better life in this cost.

Manuel Borja saw, perceived this artistic, philosophical and political unity and transformed the Reina into the space where this unity could be present, to be inscribed, represented and visible in its contemporaneity with great vitality in the present. The Reina Sofía became a place to visit, where today one feels alive and active. A place of participation and collective identification of different generations of the vast continent of Spanish.

This work is of enormous importance, as I confirmed when I was invited to the Pompidou Museum in Paris in 2019 to address the directors of Europe’s most prestigious museums on the amazing subject of how Eurocentrism works and harms European museums. I was certainly invited because of my collaboration with the Reina Sofía, since this Spanish museum has been and is seen as a beacon, a light on the road, a guiding star to get out of the monotony and museographic boredom that devastates the exhibition halls of the museums in Europe, where there is little new to say, almost nothing new to teach. Manuel Borja managed to envision something different for the precious Reina and it is perceived and understood that Spain had the greatness to allow it. Don’t let that greatness get lost to petty partisan interests. It would be a shame if this rare inspirational Spanish lighthouse were to go out.

Germán Labrador, Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Princeton University and Director of Public Activities at the Museo Reina Sofía, summarizes some of the most notable achievements of Borja’s direction: “Under his direction, more than 250 exhibitions and two presentations of the permanent collection, which is characterized, among other things, by an inquisitive and complex view of art and the demands of Latin American societies. Borja and his team understood and operationalized the museum as an echo chamber, as a storytelling machine that questions violence and gives a voice to people’s demands. It has encouraged a whole body of work on the 1939 Spanish exiles. And it is very remarkable how international networks are articulated, in particular the fabric of the “Conceptualisms of the South” with which the Giro gráfico exhibition dedicated to activism has recently been presented, citizens and artists against the advance of the global extremes rights in Latin America. This sensitive, critical, decolonial dimension has marked the museum’s activities over these years, as evidenced by the memorable exhibition Principio Potosí – a profound review of Spanish colonial memory – or the creation of the Aníbal Quijano chair. The constant experimentation with other forms of institutionality, other artistic and curatorial practices, and the porous, participatory, critical, and situational nature of the institution has shaped such overwhelming propositions as the “Situated Museum,” the museum’s neighborhood network spokespersons of conflict, and an assemblage of Help and listening from the community. The creation of a study center that hosts training programs and own research directions, the expansion of the collection through the acquisition of the Lafuente archive, the recent presentation of the “Digital del Reina”, the study, activation and dissemination of Guernica and its images are just a few of the many initiatives tirelessly carried out by the human team of the museum under this direction.

Rita Segato She is a Latin American anthropologist and essayist.

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