Open Letter: Concern for Madrid’s Reina Sophia Following the Departure Of A Longtime Director


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A letter of support for Manuel Borja Vilel, former head at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia is circulating amid Spain’s election to appoint the new director of the state-funded museum. Borja-Villel, who had been with the institution for 15 years, abruptly resigned on January 20.

In an open letter published first by e-flux , scholars, artists and museum leaders from Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg expressed their support for the recently-deceased Borja-Villel. As a result, the former museum leader has been criticised in Spain’s press. Signatories urged Borja-Villel to keep the legacy of bringing progressive art programming to Madrid, even though Spain is in a “culture war.

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Stakeholders expressed concern about the museum’s uncertain future, and called for the preservation the “inclusive model” that Borja-Villel created during his tenure. They condemned the “attacks” that Borja-Ville received from far-right media pundits. One Spanish media outlet called the museum’s exhibits “political propaganda.” This news outlet also claimed that Reina Sofia had violated codes by renewing Borja-Villel’s contracts in 2013-2018. (Borja Vilel denied the allegations.

The 1,700-signature letter states that Borja Vilel transformed the museum into a place “that allows us to talk about correction and justice” and that it is a center for “historiographical reflecting.

Borja-Villel took over the reins in 2008 and won praise from Madrid’s arts community for making Reina Sofia, which was once modern-oriented, a contemporary art hub. The museum under his leadership restructured its permanent collections, tripled its visitor traffic and reached a landmark of 4.5million visitors in 2019.

The letter however states that the museum’s position as a cultural leader is at risk.

It states that “No consideration is being given to what should be expected of future candidate proposals or designs for institutional management after the call for tenders is open.” These attacks are part a defamatory attack on the Museum model; a campaign which began long before the election of a new director.

Borja-Villel is co-curating 2023 Sao Paulo Biennial. This is not his first time. 2014 saw more than 2,500 people sign in support of the museum’s exhibit ” Really Useful Knowledge“. This was despite calls from religious groups to have it censored at the Spanish cultural ministry.

Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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