The case of the censorship of a work of art at Barcelona's MACBA last spring on the part of former museum director, and CIMAM president, Bartomeu Mari, and Mari's subsequent resignation from the museum, has had more recent repercussions at the CIMAM itself. These events suggest a major rift ---of almost taxonomic proportions we might say--not only within the CIMAM, but between the remaining CIMAM board members and the art world they were thought to serve.
In the course of this conflict, the CIMAM has shown a fundamental lack of respect towards the Barcelona art community, defending Mari over and above the concerns, passions and committment of those active in contemporary art in the city.
It was Mari's failure to defend the inclusion of an Ines Doujak piece in the exhibition The Beast and the Sovereign that led to public outcry, with many international observers supporting the curators, participating artists and the affected milieu. A few days after Mari chose to leave his post, though not before cynically and spitefully firing the show's own MACBA curators. Timidly, the CIMAM board ratified him in spite of his unacceptable actions--including brazen falsehood regarding his previous knowledge of the Doujak piece--in a bewildering move that showed tremendous disconcern for those immediately affected, including other artists and the curators, as well as the Barcelona public.
Image of a protest-performance in front of MACBA in March 2015
Amazingly, articles written on the subject (like this very good review in Hyperallergic) still repeat the idea that Spain's then King Juan Carlos I is being sodomized by Bolivian activist Domitila Chúngara in the piece (the anatomically odd attribution of a penis to an Andean woman is a fantasy worthy of psychoanalysis, apart from ignoring that it is she and not His Highness who is struggling to extract herself from victimhood).
A new director, Ferran Barrenblit, has subsequently been chosen for the MACBA
In regards to CIMAM, last week three members of the board resigned, in a gesture coinciding with the organization's annual conference.
Resignation and recognition
In a statement to the CIMAM on Nov 9, 2015, Charles Esche of the Van Abbemuseum, Vasif Kortun at Turkey's SALT and the director of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art (Doha), Abdellah Karroum, explained that they had lost their confidence in Mari and the capacity of the CIMAM board supporting him to defend adequate "ethical standards of behaviour towards artists, curators and the public."
This welcome statement constitutes the first written recognition from anyone at the CIMAM of the organization's grossly disrespectful attitude towards the Barcelona art community. It is the first attempt to officially recognize the degree to which the art community and public of Barcelona, including artists, curators, critics and those visiting, had been treated inadequately first by Mari and then by the international community of museum directors who backed him. What we are saying is that the attitude of the CIMAM is a direct slap in the face, shunning the interests of an art community that has not been in any way defended as worthy, a community subject to official CIMAM indifference, with no corresponding legitimacy (as an other to be even spoken to) as might be recognized by the organization's majority.
This is even more slighting considering the CIMAM's current office is in Barcelona, at the Fabra i Coats art centre, as a function of Mari's continuing tenure as president. Considering this office is in a municipal facility, its contract should be revoked by city hall.
We wonder whether the individual members of the CIMAM have any interest in looking beyond their own corporativist interests, which through CIMAM are constituted as a world apart, as a different class of people, worthy of an entirely different taxonomical tag.
Do CIMAM members constitute a caste? Are they another species altogether?
Our carefully construed museum labels, if we were in a zoological museum, would not read the same in Latin. Theirs would indicate one kind of straight-spined being (weak in this case), ours quite another (hopefully sturdier). Thanks to CIMAM, we have been made to feel that we are very much on the other side of the fence, second class, on another planet even, not worthy to be taken into account. A taxonomical marginalization, perhaps. And with us the great majority of those committed around the world to artistic creation as a complex cultural act requiring freedom from coercion.
In a response on the CIMAM webpage, the board's reply seemed to satisfy itself with claiming that the three resigning members had not spoken up enough six months earlier, and that the subject (in extremely bureaucratic fashion), would be shoved into a debate which was to be held at this month's CIMAM conference. The reply, already extremely cursory, does not have what could be called a conclusion. It's absurd logic undoes itself, since it was the very board of the CIMAM that pushed to have any decision on Mari's radically unethical behaviour shoved under the carpet until the comfortable setting of a conference could discuss it without in fact actually dealing with it at all. Generically.
A haphazard defense
The CIMAM's newest defence of Mari, apart from its textual errors, evidence of a haphazard drafting, clearly falsifies the events it claims to explain (it was on the front of the webpage on Nov 12th). It ignores the fact that dissent over the April 2015 ratification of Mari was voiced at that time. It also ignores what appears to have been a lack of input of the entire board in the very process of ratification. It does not admit that the conference itself, held last week in Tokyo, did not deal with the concrete case (for as Mari wrote to Hyperallergic, "it was agreed that the issue of freedom and expression in museums should be addressed in one entire session, not directly as a 'MACBA case' but in a more general approach in order for the discussion to represent many more cases that unfortunately happen.")
Effectively, that CIMAM buried the case in its recent conference to save Mari's face (or ass). And in words that suggest his own act of censorship had, as if by a magically invisible hand, just unfortunately happened to pass our way in Barcelona, in a wonderful case of 21st century artspeak.
Small consolation, then. From the Barcelona perspective, the resignation of the CIMAM board members will be taken as just the first step in what would be a pending compensation for the ongoing slight of Bartomeu Mari's continuing leadership of a discredited CIMAM.
PS. By way of ratifying my irremediably plebian relation to the CIMAM, and unabashedly so given CIMAM board members disdain for such a humble state, in 2001 I was the English editor and when-needed translator of the CIMAM publication The Curator, the Museum, the Collection. International Committee of Museums of Modern Art (CIMAM) Annual Meeting, Barcelona 22-24/9, 1997. Barcelona: Fundació "la Caixa"/CIMAM, 2001.
Abstracto ESP: El CIMAM desenganchado
En este texto en inglés pregunto por la desidia del CIMAM en su ratificación de Bartomeu Mari como presidente de la junta directiva, a la luz de la dimisión en noviembre 2015 de 3 miembros de la junta. Desde la perspectiva de Barcelona, la actitud de los todavía miembros del CIMAM, directores de museos todos, demuestra una grave falta de consideración hacia las personas que trabajan y se dedican al arte contemporáneo alrededor del mundo, muchas veces en la sombra de tantos museos indiferentes a su realidad. ¿Son los directivos del CIMAM que han menospreciado a la comunidad artística de Barcelona, constituyentes de una clase aparte, taxonómicamente distinto, una especie diferente? ¿Representan, para utilizar un término con una carga concreta, una casta? Nos preguntamos si realmente merecemos tan poca consideración por parte del CIMAM, y más cuando la presencia continuada de Bartomeu Mari como presidente, y con oficinas en instalaciones municipales, sirva para hurgar en las heridas abiertas de su acto de censura y posterior ensañamiento--con mentiras comprobadas además--con los comisarios y artistas involucrados