Spanish curator Elvira Dyangani Ose is set to return home, becoming the new director of the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA).
Her appointment has been overshadowed however by the dismissal of longterm senior members of the curatorial staff while the institution was between directors. On Monday Tanya Barson, MACBA’s chief curator, revealed she and Pablo Martínez, the head of programmes, had been sacked by email, with immediate effect. They were told their roles would no longer be required under a ‘‘modification of the museum’s organisational model’ approved by the museum’s council.
‘It is striking that this proposed organizational change is made at a time when the museum is without an artistic director, by means of email communication… therefore without the possibility of labour mediation. It is also effective immediately, so is also made without time close or handover to the teams some fundamental projects for the museum.’
‘These changes to the organisational chart do not respond to any objective need and have as a main consequence the constitution of a museum management model in which neoliberal governance is placed above the design and development of content.’
In a statement the museum responded ‘We are grateful for the professionalism, dedication and work they have performed over the past five years’. It said the reorganisation had been planned since October 2020 and that, contrary to Barson’s claim it would hand Dyangani more responsibility over the administrative leadership of the museum, not less.
The previous director, Ferran Barenblit, who has been director of MACBA for the past six years, left having reached the end of his tenure. Dyangani Ose was chosen by a jury of local and international curators and stakeholders.
This is not the first time a leadership change at MACBA has occurred amidst controversy. Barenblit took the job in 2015 after his predecessor, Bartomeu Marí, left after accusation of censorship. Marí had responded to outrage surrounding a work by Austrian artist Ines Doujak by cancelling the group show it was included in. The sculpture depicts former Spanish king Juan Carlos and Bolivian Labor leader Domitila Chúngara engaging in a threesome with a dog, the canine taking the active role. The curators of The Beast and the Sovereign, Valentín Roma and Paul B. Preciado, were removed at Marí’s request.
Dyangani has been director of The Showroom in London since 2019. Prior to that she was senior curator at Creative Time in New York and curator of international art at Tate Modern. While her tenure at The Showroom was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, exhibitions and projects included solo shows for Dutch-Cameroonian artist Em’kal Eyongakpa and a two decade retrospective of German artist Kathrin Böhm.
Dyangani is a PhD candidate in the Department of Art History and Visual Studies at Cornell University, New York, which she will defend in the summer, and lectures in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College. She previously curated the Göteborg Biennial for Contemporary Art and Rencontres Picha at the Lubumbashi Biennial.