“The Reina Sofía Museum must listen more, not just dictate”

“The Reina Sofía Museum must listen more, not just dictate”

2023-06-09 23:15:18

Manuel Segade goes to the media two days after his appointment to explain what future plans he has for the second most important cultural institution in the country. Unlike the last two appointments that the Ministry of Culture has made in Spanish public museums, Isabel Izquierdo in the National Museum of Archeology and Andrés Gutiérrez in the Museum of America, Segade has preferred to publicize the project with which he was chosen by the commission of experts appointed by the Board of Trustees of the museum to lead the institution for the next four years. With his first words, he wanted to distance himself from the previous stage, starring Manuel Borja-Villel, and he has already come to this newspaper with a forceful statement: “I am not a transition director as I have heard out there.” The rumor to which he refers points to him as a disciple of Borja-Villel and a follower of his museum practices, but he has gone ahead to cut his losses.

Lea Lublin, the artist who exhibited her baby at the Museum during May 1968 in Paris


Segade is fast and direct, he speaks without fear because he won’t stumble upon a question he doesn’t want to talk about. He even dares to answer without hot cloths about his relationship with the Madrid PP. For almost a decade, he has been director of the CA2M center in Móstoles and he assures that he has not had any problems with the same Government team of the Community of Madrid that censored the artist Sandra Gamarra. In September 2021, under the responsibility of the counselor Marta Rivera de la Cruz, an order was given to remove the terms “racism” and “restitution” from the exhibition that questioned the idea of ​​”Hispanicity” in the Alcalá 31 room. I lived the Gamarra thing from afar and at CA2M we have never experienced an episode of censorship. We have always worked freely. In fact, at the time that was happening at Alcalá 31, we had Daniela Ortiz exposed. Episodes like this are more typical of the clumsiness of a person than of a reality, ”says Segade without giving names.

The politics of museums

This is how the new director has arrived at the center, in the middle of the electoral campaign, with crossfire between all the parties. A few hours before his appointment was made public, the PP charged against him a month and a half before the General Elections. Borja Sémper and Andrea Levy took it upon themselves to disqualify the process and questioned its democratic credibility. “I learned from Pepe Guirao, in the meetings we held at the Association of Contemporary Art Directors of Spain (ADACE), that if we didn’t want to do pedagogy and work hand in hand with politicians, it was best if we didn’t work linked to institutions public. It is possible to make programs that are involved with society and with the public and have them respected by the political class. Culture is a public good that all parties are protecting. I won’t have any problem after 23J”, Segade maintains before the possibility of a change of government shortly after taking office.

It is possible to make programs that are involved with society and with the public and have them respected by the political class. Culture is a public good that all parties are protecting. I won’t have any problem after 23J

He admits that political interference in the autonomy of the management of public museums is something that happens in Spain because “we are a young democracy.” “And we still have a lot of work to do. This is what cultural institutions should contribute to. We have to be able to generate low-institutional processes, where people can participate in the museum, with communities that are allowed to maintain a real dialogue with the institution. Generating listeners is essential. The Reina Sofía Museum must listen much more, not just dictate, ”he explains by phone, but not from his new office. In the next few days he will move his office, from Móstoles to Atocha. In the center of the capital, where the potatoes burn. “Well, I think that there I have learned about resilience and resistance. In Móstoles I have been glued to the street, I know the public of the museum, I sit with them, I get closer to the activities… That street experience is an elementary tool. I think it is very important that the museum be broader and even more inclusive”, adds Manuel Segade.

The 46-year-old art historian fits the profile of the conservators of the previous generation, who took over the museums. Borja-Villel was 51 years old when he arrived at the Reina Sofía; At the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Guillermo Solana, 63, took over as director in 2005, at the age of 45. Miguel Zugaza was appointed director of the Prado in 2002, at the age of 38, and remained there for almost 15 years, until 2016. Miguel Falomir was 52 years old when he replaced him.

Against the single speech

The Reina Sofía Museum needs a management that understands and connects with new languages ​​and new audiences. And above all, break with the single discourse. “Very few curators of my generation had a curriculum line at the Reina Sofía. This tells you everything, ”he points out. In fact, he didn’t get that chance either.

“The system implemented is for the director and the head of collections to take center stage,” several museum sources informed this newspaper at the time. What Segade and the workers at the center refer to is that Manuel Borja-Villel was the curator who repeated the most throughout the 15 years of his management of the museum: almost 30 exhibitions bear his signature. In 2017 he broke his own records and organized four (dedicated to William Kentridge, Soledad Lorenzo, Lee Lozano and Rosa Barba). In 2018 he repeated with four others (Poéticas de la democracia, Mairy Baghramian, Eusebio Sempere and Dora García).

There is a fundamental work in the interior recomposition. Fifteen years in an institution and in some modes generate a lot of exclusions, overloads, etc.

“It has been one of the capital contributions to CA2M: all the young Spanish curators have passed through the center. The Reina Sofía Museum needs more polyphony and it is something that is in great demand by the scene in our country. There will not be a single voice, but lots of them”, warns Segade. By the way, the new director believes that the museum needs a curating director and managing director. “The management must tie both things. It has to be a very ordinary job”, he indicates. He is aware of the administrative structure he inherits, with a staff of almost 500 people, he says, and with dismantled conservation departments. There is no one who has been in charge of the Pablo Picasso collection for four years. He is going to work so that the departments are “much more linked and that there is more transparency in the museum.” “There is a fundamental work in the interior recomposition. Fifteen years in an institution and in some modes generate a lot of exclusions, overloads, etc. Everyone wants more like-minded people on their team. In addition, I believe that the emotional management of the team is essential. You have to work with the team and recompose the fundamental weight of its civil service structure. For me this is very important. The how is as important as the what ”, he indicates to elDiario.es.

For me, his thought is part of my DNA of contemporary art, both feminism and the class struggle, as well as the processes of decolonization.

Regarding the absence of the Spanish artist, he explains that it is impossible to play in the international league without looking outside, “but we must not forget that Spanish artists and our scene live from that exchange.” “I do think it is necessary to value more of my own things. There are many other stories lurking in the collection. That is why it is very important, with the tools of dialogue, to establish a consensus of a necessary story: impeccable names to define Spanish art”, he assures and advances that he will touch on Borja-Villel’s narrative proposal from the museum’s collections.

“Any canon is reviewable and all consensus is ephemeral. I prefer to raise it democratically, with active participation. Let the museum listen, not just dictate. For this reason, as a democratic institution, museums are an instrument to generate material conditions of equality. My training comes from Griselda Pollock. For me, her thought is part of my DNA of contemporary art, both feminism, class struggle, and decolonization processes. For me the gender discourse is fundamental. Indeed, there are many restitutions pending to execute. Art is a sum of minorities ”, Segade sentences before hanging up.

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