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The socialist and the sovereign: censored show opens at Württembergischer Kunstverein

Last Friday, the 16th October, The Beast and the Sovereign––probably the most embattled exhibition of 2015––opened in the Württembergischer Kunstverein.

Curated by Valentín Roma, Paul B. Preciado, Hans D. Christ and Iris Dressler, the exhibition was scheduled to open at MACBA on Wednesday, March 18th. Tuesday the 17th however, the press conference was canceled as instructed by MACBA director Bartomeu Marí. The following day the exhibition didn’t open. Marí gave an interview explaining that he objected to the “last-minute” inclusion of an offensive artwork, a sculpture by Austrian artist Ines Doujak depicting the former Spanish king, Juan Carlos I, naked, on all fours, mounted by the Bolívian labor leader, Domitila Barrios de Chúngara, who is in turn mounted by a German Shepherd. According to Marí, he only learned about the work the previous Monday, and accused the curators of sidestepping the institution and refusing to consider the removal of an artwork which, in his view, carried a message that was inappropriate for the museum to circulate. The exhibition’s curators contested Marí’s version and the artist Ines Doujak uploaded the loan agreement, which displays a photo of the work on the upper left corner, clearly signed by Bartomeu Marí on February 25th. The director had misspoken; it seems he was simply asleep at the wheel and attempting to deflect blame. But however you spin it, the facts are just unflattering: a public museum whose honorary president is Queen Sofía attempts to censor a sculpture that depicts her husband, the former king. After a social media uproar the exhibition finally opened its doors, with the director offering the board his resignation––but not before summarily firing the curatorial team, Valentín Roma and Paul B. Preciado.

However outrageous, the events that took place at the MACBA are hardly extraordinary––everyone in this industry knows a couple of similar stories––what’s striking is rather the ineptness the director displayed in handling the conflict. The fact that he was such a poor crisis manager was what gave us an insight into the type of conflict that most often remains muted. An insight, one should add, gained at the expense of two curators losing their jobs. And yet, up until last weekend, when the Württembergischer Kunstverein organized a conference, not much was said or written, about the meaning of these events. Ironically, in April, Kunsthalle Wien hosted a conference on “curatorial ethics” which discussed, among other issues, the pitfalls of curating contemporary art exhibitions inside authoritarian states (i.e. Moscow biennial) without ever mentioning the MACBA show. But The Beast and the Sovereign is worth discussing. Doujak’s sculpture is not just polemics masquerading as politics, nor is it “bad art”––whatever that may mean–-or too “explicit” which is usually code for not “cosily abstract.” Abstraction, whatever its merits, is not a proper vehicle for satire or critique. Doujak’s sculpture is rather an emblem, a political allegory one could say, of the king’s two bodies: the mortal aging body of the monarch and the beastly, metamorphic body of despotic power. One may conquer the former, but the latter will keep rearing its head, or baring its teeth. In a monarchy, the state itself is private property, legally passed down through inheritance––to whom does, in such a situation, a public museum belong? And which body of people is its program meant to represent?

On the other hand, as Max Jorge Hinderer pointed out, in Germany you would be able to represent the Bourbon crown, other issues however, were rather muted, subjected to soft-censorship, as he termed it. Guess that is the nature of (hard) power in a (neo)liberal democracy: you won’t know its there unless you happen to bump into it, but if you do, it knocks you over.

*Image of Ines Doujak’s “Not Dressed for Conquering” via Huffington Post


The conference at the WK in Stuttgart was extremely interesting in the way it was able to connect this particular event to a broader issue: growing political interference and corporate encroachment inside public institutions, depletion of funds under privatization schemes, etc.
One should have more of these discussions!

for a more detailed account on the MACBA’s troubled recent history and context surrounding the events:


I very much appreciate the headline of ana teixeir’s article, “The socialist and the sovereign”, yet, then it needs some reflections on the gender relations of Doujak’s sculpture, that is: the possibility of the socialist being a woman (without saying, that we know whether the woman* is male, female, neither, or both).

I would suggest that part of what the sculpture does, is exploring female socio_sexual agency under conditions of exploitation and in the aftermath of colonial and fascist violence. I’m afraid, it is not enough to say that the sculpture is an emblem of the king’s two bodies, the vulnerable monarch and the despotic power, without also acknowledging
the colonized female body, who is or is not mounting the king.

Furthermore, it is relevant that we are not confronted with a couple or duel (neither male and female, nor beast and sovereign), but with an ambiguous triple. Ambiguous, because we cannot tell for sure, whether it is the beast or the
socialist mounting the king; whether the beast mounts the king or the woman, and whether mounting goes along with penetration and/or is the metaphor of a lesbian third beyond the binary.

The strength of the sculpture derives from its polysemic and ambiguous meaning. Yet, this is where it also finds its limits: namely in once again exhibiting the naked, eroticized colonized body.

Thus, the challenge that one faces in the encounter with Doujak’s sculpture, is to discuss and
renounce censorship as acutely intertwining the sexual [and/is] the political.


Thanks for your brilliant post, “Not Dressed for Conquering” definitely deserves a closer look. At first glance the two figures seem symmetrical opposites: male/female; sovereign/socialist; powerful/powerless; wealthy/destitute; European/indigenous; etc. What undoes this symmetry is the third element, that grinning dog. Maybe I am hallucinating but I cannot help but see in it an allegory for power ––which always divides into two: tangible and intangible. In other words, that German shepherd is the true face of the Spanish crown: fascism is the only political response liberal capitalism knows, when facing a crisis.
There is somehow a continuity between what happened in Barcelona ––the re-opening of the show was an apparent victory, nonetheless the curators were fired–– and the recent events in Greece ––the NO vote was an apparent victory, but the ECB forced a shutdown of the banking system–– amongst many other possible examples. Yesterday in a conference at the HKW in Berlin, the Portuguese theorist Delfim Sardo showed the image, which appeared in the cover of time magazine in 1975. The picture shows the American response to the revolution that overthrew the fascist dictatorship in Portugal. He said he wanted to show this picture because the Portuguese president just endorsed a minority right wing pro-austerity government, against a left-wing majority, and justified the decision by saying that “the Red Threat is back.” Guess what I am trying to say is that these apparently unrelated events are all epiphenomena of an imperial order, which only becomes visible when under threat. “Not Dressed for Conquering” puts forth an image of power, which paradoxically shows that power is never in the image, its everywhere, it permeates everything.

An afterthought: Paul Preciado said that, unfortunately, artists are not political subjects. When I read the responses to the “Frieze Art Fair: the monetization of your misery?” controversy, I must say I start to believe they could be.


Just for your information, here is a fresh news from Korea: “Bartomeu Mari, the outgoing director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Barcelona, is a leading candidate for the position of director of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Korea, which has been vacant for a year.” http://english.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2015/10/26/2015102601723.html


Its been such an important discussion and only a beginning (it should be a travelling exhibition and a travelling discussion what has happened there can happen here tomo…its a way of governance if we dont work on awareness and emancipation the circles are getting closer…we need to have more public and private discussions these topics and the threads affect us all
even if at least i feel like a i cant breathe like in the demonstrations…of course it affects us all and we can not be anything else but political…just think of where this word comes from…and it starts at your skin

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Shortly after that crisis that happened this March at MACBA due to an act of censorship executed by the then director Bartomeu Marí in the context of the exhibition “The Beast and Sovereign”, the board of CIMAM (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art, including in its board among others Charles Esche, director of the Vanabbe Museum in Eindhoven, and Vasif Kotun, director of SALT in Istanbul and Ankara), endorsed the continuation of Marí’s position as CIMAM’s president.

Furthermore, CIMAM announced that „important questions regarding freedom of expression, censorship and institutional responsibility“ would be discussed at the committee’s next meeting this November (November 7–9, 2015) in Tokyo (1). Keynote speaker of the respective session is Patricia Falguières, who has had already the opportunity to articulate her thoughts about the “MACBA case” at the online platform of L’Internationale (2) – a five years European project involving among others the MACBA, the Vanabbe Museum, and SALT.

In terms of censorship Falguières clarifies at the very beginning of her text that in her perception “censorship is … a buzz-word that blinds both those who use it and those towards which it is destined.” To me this position completely disqualifies her from any keynote lecture that should introduce issues of censorship in a differentiated way. It’s a bit like someone who should give a keynote lecture about sexual abuse, and who is convinced that in the most of the cases people who say that they had been sexually abused do not know what they are talking about – and / or just want to blame someone else. The awkward problem of censorship in democratic Western societies is not only that it silences a certain articulation, but that the one who got censored mostly also gets deprived to call this publicly an act of censorship.

Not enough: Falguières calls Ines Doujak’s sculpture “Not Dressed for Conquering / Haute Couture 04 Transport” – the very sculpture that Marí wanted to remove from the exhibition the day before the press conference – a Trojan Horse, an instrument aiming to destroy “the fragile strongholds called museums.” She suggests that the artist and curators of the exhibition “The Beast and the Sovereign” would have had the mean plan to destroy the MACBA using a sculpture that they clandestinely smuggled into the museum … camouflaged as what? The MACBA – like many other museums – not only is a “bastion”, as Falguières again and again writes, but rather a maximum security prison. You simply cannot bring something into this museum, which would not have been beforehand squeamishly scanned from tip to toe.

And why should we have done this: bringing a Trojan Horse to MACBA? Falguières speculates, that we all are “political, commercial and media backers” that cannot stand “permanence” but instead “need scandals”. In place of “medium and long-term in-depth work”, we would go for “one-shot scandalous exhibitions” and “short term media effects”. She obviously has no clue about Doujak’s more than 30 years long research on textile production. She obviously has also no clue about Hans and my institutional and curatorial work. Fine –, but this fact should have irritated her at least: how could she not know anything about us when we are such media bitches? But what really strikes me: she should at least know Valentín Roma’s and Paul B. Preciado’s work, especially in the last two years at MACBA, before writing such an article. Their work was definitely not about short-term effects, but about rethinking this museum – on the basis of a profound knowledge and a long-term perspective – with, against and beyond its intellectual founder. And this “with, against and beyond” in my point of view is the very, and the challenging sense of continuity at the place of a museum.

But let me speculate what Falguières really means with “scandalism” and “Trojan Horses”, with “bastions”,” strongholds”, and “hunting-grounds”. Can it be, that it’s more about those dissident bodies, critical thoughts and institutional detournements, which were at the very heart of Roma’s and Preciado’s work at MACBA? Where they too much calling into question the neoliberal and heteronormative logics of power that – as everybody knows – are also at work at an art museum, and for sure at the MACBA (just take a closer look at the configuration of its consortium)? Were they at least a bit too queer, too critical for that “fragile bastion” called museum? Not to forget: Roma and Preciado were not smuggled into MACBA hidden in a fancy cake, but invited and engaged by Bartomeu Marí: like were Friedrich Meschede, Chuz Martínez, Carles Guerra, and Ines Doujak.

But again: What is the problem with Ines Doujak’s sculpture at all? What makes it so unbearable and menacing for a Spanish contemporary art museum?

Falguières admits, that she herself is fine and fully “Charlie” when it comes to those two-dimensional “most outrageously daring cartoons … of … presidents, … the pope, bishops etc.” to be found in magazines and being produced, as she believes, “to the delight of a small readership and the indifference of most of the population.“ Should that be the aim of caricature? Can our society stand caricatures – those impudent jokes about authorities and sovereigns – only as long as the most of the people do not notice them – as long as the people are ignorant of them like the beast should be ignorant of the law?

Howsoever, the problem of Doujak’s sculpture, according to Falguières, is that it is three-dimensional! A cartoon – under certain circumstances – might be fine. “But”, as we get instructed, “a drawing is not a naturalist sculpture, a magazine is not a museum, a press drawing is not a three-dimensional effigy exhibited in a public building.” Is Doujak’s sculpture naturalist?

Anyway, Falguières is convinced: when it comes to the three dimensional form and the museum, fun definitely ends. And that is why, as she assumes, most of the directors of European museums – who “prudently” kept silent about the MACBA-affair – would agree not to show Doujak’s sculpture in a Spanish art museum. Honestly: I hardly can imagine that most of the directors of European art museums are afraid of three-dimensional works. So what is it that kept them – like many other representatives of the art world – so silent once the big-bang of Barcelona was over? Agreement? Lack of interest? Gloating? Fear?

What is missing in the art world at large – a world whose main currency, as we all know, is “being friend with”; and whose basic law says “you’ll be with us, or you’re out” – is a profound culture of conflict and disobedience. If we really want to protect the museums from being absorbed by neoliberal interests, we have to start here: to work collectively and in the long run on a serious culture of conflict; and to rethink the open and hidden hierarchies, forms of intimidation and silencing, power plays and players, which are at work at today’s art institutions in the name of “professionalism” and “friendship.” It’s about redefining what we mean by friendship, professionalism, solidarity, critique, emancipation, the freedom of expression, the potentiality of art and of the institution. The project “The Beast and is the Sovereign”, whose unexpected conflict became an integral part of it, revolves around these redefinitions.

Iris Dressler

(1) http://cimam.org/program-2015
(2) http://www.internationaleonline.org/research/alter_institutionality/26_verifica_dei_poteri


Dear Iris, thanks for your post, having read the text by Patricia Falguières I must say I find some of its arguments disturbing, namely:
The partition between high and low art, and the hierarchy of genres that goes with it (caricature, parody or satire are too plebeian for the museum, better kept in the yellow press where they belong) bearing all the hallmarks of a bourgeois sensitivity that always excluded the working classes
The identification with the “mission civilisatrice” of institutions which conveniently brackets out how complicit these same institutions are in processes of exploitation and immiseration (Louvre Abu Dhabi?)
The false dichotomy Museum vs. Neoliberalism (i.e. culture vs commerce) which conveniently forgets how thoroughly permeated by commercial interests museums are (remember: “Nearly one-third of the major solo exhibitions held in US museums between 2007 and 2013 featured artists represented by just five galleries”)
Last but not least, the internalization of your own oppression the text advocates: some topics are off limits because they are simply tasteless, and all discerning people know that, if you fail to abide by these unspoken rules you must be an attention-monger who thrives on polemics. Removing that boorish sculpture was not an act of censorship, but rather like having security escort some rowdy rednecks out of the Four Seasons.

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I would like to inform the participants in this discussion that L’Internationale Online has today published an article by Ines Doujak responding to the events at MACBA earlier this year. She offers a detailed account of the work itself that is central to this debate. You can find the article here. In the past months we have published several articles discussing what happened from various angels. You can find them all here. In an earlier post Iris Dressler asked if we are able ‘to work collectively and in the long run on a serious culture of conflict.’ Even if conflict is not the term we use, L’Internationale has been dedicated to take difference and agonism as a constructive forces that we shouldn’t shy away from. In the future we want to continue to make space for them and stay a space dedicated to critical debate dedicated to the future of art and museums.

Steven ten Thije
Member of the Editorial Board of L’Internationale Online

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It was announced today (Monday, November 9th) that three members of the Board of Directors International Committee of ICOM for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM) have resigned due to events at MACBA. Here is their letter:


Statement of Resignation from Three Members of the Board of Directors International Committee of ICOM for Museums and Collections of Modern Art (CIMAM)

We believe that art museums engaged with contemporary issues should be sites for the free exchange of ideas, where legal debate about and dissension from government policy or majority social opinion are allowed and encouraged. Museums are one of the key places where new ideas and possibilities can enter society. That’s why they are often under threat. We believe CIMAM’s main task today is to defend as much as is possible this space for debate and to set ethical standards of behaviour towards artists, curators and the public.

The recent course of events at MACBA and within the board at CIMAM have led us to doubt whether our current president can defend those values credibly. We therefore feel we have no option but to resign from the board as we no longer have confidence in how it represents the interests of CIMAM members. We will remain members and we do hope that CIMAM can restore its credibility in the near future through new leadership. We wish the board well in setting its future course.

Abdellah Karroum
Artistic Director of L’appartement 22, Rabat
Director of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha.

Vasıf Kortun
D​irector o​f R​esearch & Programs​at S​ALT, Istanbul.

Charles Esche
Director Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven Editorial Director, Afterall Publishing, London

Apparently, Charles Esche, Vasif Kortun and Abdellah Karroum expected that the CIMAM’s annual conference in Tokio would address the MACBA’s case. Instead, Bartomeu Mari invited Patricia Falguières as a keynote speaker (link here: http://www.internationaleonline.org/research/alter_institutionality/26_verifica_dei_poteri)
and none of the curators involved was offered a chance to respond. Frustrated with how the situation was handled they subsequently resigned. Meanwhile, the CIMAM reaffirmed its support for Mari.

CIMAM’s statement:

  1. When the events at MACBA took place, the board of CIMAM asked Bartomeu Mari to give a response, which he circulated to all of the Board members. At a skype meeting on April 8th, it was agreed that he should remain as President. It was also agreed that a session on the challenges of freedom of expression and institutional responsibilities should be included in the conference. The note of this skype meeting was distributed to all of the Board members.
  2. At the following Board meeting in Venice in May, the content of the conference was discussed. It was agreed that day one should be devoted to the topic of Museums as sites of debate, with a key note speaker and four perspectives from different parts of the world. (the overall theme being how global can museums be). Following the Board meeting, the proposed list of speakers was circulated to all of the Board members. A number of Board members gave further input.
  3. A week before the conference, two Board members sent a note to the Board criticising the content of the conference and circulating a letter about the MACBA events attacking the President.
  4. Board members did not agree that the content should be changed at this late stage.
  5. A skype meeting was held just before the conference to ascertain why these board members were only now raising concerns about the content of the conference and the position of the President. Those Board members requested the resignation of the President and when this was not forthcoming, they chose to resign.


An update to note that Württembergischer Kunstverein has been awarded the International AICA Award for Exhibition of the Year 2015 for “The Beast and the Sovereign.” International AICA’s letter below, translated by e-flux to English; the original German follows.

AICA Award for the Exhibition of the Year 2015


The exhibition “The Beast and the Sovereign” investigates the effects of hegemonic power in unorthodox ways and from multiple perspectives, utilizing four highly current themes.

Geographically, the exhibition covers a large area and approaches its topic of interest from unique artistic positions and discoveries as well as a thick array of groups of works from all genres. Questions of religion and its abuse, the fall-out from capitalist economy, entanglements of biological research and the inheritance from colonial power relations are being addressed intensively and in a consistently sophisticated way. Conceptually rooted in Jacques Derrida’s allegorical pairing of “the beast” and “the sovereign,” the curators succeed in creating a highly charged superstructure without reducing the individual works to mere illustrations.

The scandal occurring at the opening this spring in Barcelona and the numerous personnel consequences that followed also gave rise to a wide range of questions regarding politics and business influences on programs of public cultural institutions in Europe, calling for their inspection in the time to come. How and why do censorship and inherent self-censorship develop? Which exhibitions are missing and currently not being made for these reasons?

International AICA, German section

AICA Preis für die "Ausstellung des Jahres 2015"


Die Ausstellung „Die Bestie und ist der Souverän“ untersucht auf unorthodoxe, nonkonformistische und multiperspektivische Weise Formen von Wirkungskräften hegemonialer Macht, und zwar anhand von vier hoch akuten Themenfeldern.

Dabei richtet die Ausstellung ihr Untersuchungsfeld geografisch weit aus, versieht es mit ungewöhnlichen künstlerischen Positionen und Entdeckungen sowie dichten Werkgruppen aller Genres. Fragen zur Religion und ihrem Missbrauch, zu den Flurschäden kapitalistischer Ökonomie, den Verstrickungen biologischer Forschung und dem Erbe kolonialer Machtverhältnisse werden intensiv und durchweg anspruchsvoll behandelt. Konzeptuell verankert in Jacques Derridas allegorischem Figurenpaar des „Tieres“ und des „Souveräns“ gelingt den Kuratoren ein hochbrisanter Überbau, der die einzelnen Werke dennoch nicht zur illustrierenden Folie missbraucht.

Der bei der Eröffnung (im Frühjahr dieses Jahres) entstandene Eklat in Barcelona mit zahlreichen personellen Konsequenzen hat zudem weitreichende Fragen aufgeworfen, die zukünftig den Blick auf den Einfluss von Politik und Wirtschaft auf das Programm öffentlicher Kulturinstitutionen in Europa einfordern. Wie und warum entstehen Zensur und inhärente Selbstzensur? Welche Ausstellungen fehlen und werden daher und derzeit nicht gemacht?

Internationale AICA, deutsche Sektion

There is now a change.org petition in support of Bartomeu Marí, started by Enrico Lunghi, Director of MUDAM Luxembourg. Lunghi thinks that Marí made a mistake, but in the broader scope of Marí’s career, it’s obvious he is a firm supporter of artistic freedom and shouldn’t be blacklisted or prevented from finding further employment. The petition is below, and if you are so moved, you can sign it here.

A letter has been circulating among the members of CIMAM who are surprised by the petition that was undertaken against Bartomeu Mari’s candidature at the MMCA in South Korea as it can be read here: (https://news.artnet.com/art-world/bartomeu-mari-south-korea-macba-365360).

Petition signing, open letters distribution, critical attitudes and protest against attacks to democratic values are all important and understandable acts especially today, when traditional democratic principles are under pressure everywhere.

But more than often those who rush to the keyboard to lay down their signatures under this and that seem to forget that it is not only about abstract ideas we are concerned, but also about complex political and social circumstances, and about real people, with real lives.

What happens in the case of Bartomeu Mari is a typical example of the above: the pre-text of a noble cause—namely the fight against censorship—is misused, taken out of context, and exploited for the public and professional execution of someone who has been consistently defending precisely the values he is now said to have betrayed.

Have all the people who signed taken the time to acknowledge the version of the facts regarding the MACBA that was given by Marí himself (see below) ? What if the biggest mistake by Marí was not to have paid enough timely attention to his curatorial team’s ideas? Of course an artist should be able to do whatever work he wants and show it wherever s/he can, but it’s the director of the institution who carries the responsibility of determining the appropriateness of a work within a context. Does that director not have the right to doubt, to feel trapped, to make a mistake? For over more than 20 years, Bartomeu Marí curated great and radical shows and presented the work of hundreds and hundreds of artists: should there now be an irreversible character assassination because he found himself in a situation without a good solution? He paid for his error (and he corrected the initial decision of not opening the exhibition): he lost his job. It’s too easy to condemn someone in the name of a falsely understood artistic freedom when there is no responsibility engaged.

We acknowledge Bartomeu Marí’s professional standing and encourage him to continue governing cultural structures and organizing exhibitions in the interest of a larger artistic dialogue.

First signatures :

Enrico Lunghi (Mudam Luxembourg), Kate Fowle (Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow), Calin Dan (MNAC Bucharest), Christian Bernard (Mamco Genève)


“The Beast and the Sovereign” is an exhibition co-produced by MACBA and the Würtembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart. It brings together works by 30 artists and, according to the exhibition media release, is an exploration of “how contemporary artistic practices question and deconstruct the Western and metaphysical definition of political sovereignty: their new way of understanding freedom and emancipation beyond individual autonomy, as well as the modern form of the nation-state.” More information can be accessed at http://www.macba.cat/en/expo-beast-sovereign.

The exhibition curators are Paul B. Preciado and Valentin Roma (MACBA), and Iris Dressler and Hans D. Christ (Würtembergischer Kunstverein).

On the morning of Monday March 16th, I first viewed the exhibition, which was in the process of being installed. The press conference for the show was scheduled for Tuesday March 17 at 11:30 am, with the public opening to take place on Wednesday March 18 at 7:30 pm.

Once in the galleries, the curators inquired whether I had “seen the work about the King” which was the first time they directed my attention to this particular piece. Up until this moment, and in the spirit of trusting my curators, I had only scant information on the exhibition and its contents.

The work by Ines Doujak, titled “Haute Couture 04 Transport,” depicts the former King Juan Carlos I of Spain being sodomized by a Bolivian feminist leader, who in turn is being sodomized by a dog. The King is vomiting flowers; the figures appear on top of a pile of Nazi soldiers’ helmets.

On viewing the work I expressed that we could not exhibit it without the certainty of creating a serious crisis for the museum including the exhibition (see “Some Background Information” below). I asked the curators to negotiate with the artist for the removal of the work, while another work by the same artist would remain in the show to represent her. The curators refused this request, citing that removing the work would be tantamount to censorship.

The press conference was rescheduled for the morning of Wednesday the 18th to allow time for further negotiation. During Tuesday, no progress was made and at the end of the afternoon, I made the decision to cancel the press conference and announced that the show would not open.

Wednesday the 18th and Thursday the 19th I was heavily involved in speaking to the press, which took the story to newspapers and social media, the latter in particular generating a great deal of negative criticism regarding my decision.

By Friday the 20th, the situation was known to leaders of political parties, who variously expressed support for or condemned my decision. By this time, the work of Ines Doujak had been broadcast on prime-time news, reproduced on covers of Barcelona’s main papers, and been widely debated on TV and radio.

Meanwhile, the museum field responded in diverse ways, with many colleagues (with varying degrees of knowledge around the specific circumstances) advising in favor of re-opening the show.

Taking my colleagues’ advice into account, and seeing that diverting a crisis for the museum was now unavoidable, I made the decision to open the exhibition on the morning of Saturday March 21.

On Friday evening March 20, following my decision to open the exhibition, I circulated a statement in which I expressed my apologies to artists, curators and the audience, and explained my reasons for defending the museum. The Chairman of the Board of MACBA called a meeting for the evening of Monday the 23rd, and my resignation was accepted / my contract was terminated by the Board (though perhaps unfamiliar to some, this dual action is standard protocol in circumstances like these in Spain). At the same meeting the board resolved to terminate the contracts of the exhibition curators (after a year of working at MACBA on a free-lance basis, both had been formally hired to these positions in January 2015).

My actions have been misinterpreted as bending to political forces and interests. Let me be clear: I never received a phone call or any message to act in one or the other way. From the start, I informed the three head members of the board of my first action (not allowing the show to open) as well as the second (opening the show). I received approval on the first and disappointment yet understanding on the second. I did not need any calls from anyone to deduce the serious, if not fatal damage to the governance of MACBA.

As of March 24th I am Acting Director of MACBA with responsibilities for the 2015 program only. I have been asked to secure the exhibitions program until the appointment of a new director who will be chosen through an international search.


MACBA is bound to a financial and legal entity known as the Consortium that brings together the Catalan Government, the City Council of Barcelona and MACBA Foundation; as of 2007, the Spanish Ministry of Culture also joined the Consortium. The sum of these public and private interests, constitute the MACBA Board. Currently, the Chairman of the MACBA Consortium is the President of the Catalan Government and its First Vice Chairman is the Mayor of Barcelona.

On the other hand, the MACBA Foundation operates as a private non-profit through which members of the Catalan civil society donate money for the acquisition of artworks for the MACBA Collection. Since 2013, MACBA Foundation also helps the museum in finding patrons and sponsors to support the exhibitions and education programs of the museum. MACBA Foundation’s Honorary Chair is H.M. the Queen Sofia.

A little over a year ago, MACBA dedicated a monographic exhibition to Catalan artist Eulàlia Grau who created a new work for her show. The piece consisted of a slide projection where images of a homeless lady living in the Plaça de Catalunya alternated with images taken from the Internet, showing how people in Spain expressed their anger and criticism against corruption and the entities that embody that power: politicians and bankers. An image of King Juan Carlos I was included, with a “subtitle” quoting a public apology of his: “I am very sorry; it will not happen again”. A right-wing national paper dedicated a full page to this show with the following headline: “The Catalan Government finances insults to the Crown with public money”.

The House of the King made inquiries, and I had to deal with a scenario that led me to write a letter of resignation. I never delivered that letter because the process stopped.

Here in Spain, in a climate of opposition and sometimes open conflict between the administrations of the Spanish and the Catalan Governments, showing a work like Ines Doujak’s “Haute Couture 04 Transport” in a public institution like MACBA, which is 80% financed by local and national (federal) tax money, would be taken by the right wing press and political sectors as an official provocation: a provocation from Catalan authorities to the Spanish ones. Let us recall that as recently as November of 2014, the Spanish Government threatened the Catalan President with jail for calling a referendum in favor of Catalan independence.

I always understood that the partnership of the MACBA Foundation is crucial both as a much needed alternative source of funding for the museum and the search for a balance –or more balanced proportions-- between public and private funding, at a moment where public resources are clearly being reduced (MACBA lost 30% of its public endowment between 2009 and 2014, leading to a 25% reduction in staff and the undermining of its programming). Crucially, the MACBA Foundation is a non-politicized entity, in that its Board does not turn over with every four-year cycle of elections.


I believe that great museums and exhibitions are the result of mutual trust and respect among artists, curators and the institution. Had a discussion around this work taken place in a timely manner before the show’s opening, I am convinced that the curators, the artist and I would have arrived at an acceptable scenario. As it is, the curators were less than transparent with me regarding content that they knew full well would generate an institutional crisis. As the director of the institution, I am obliged to protect the museum, and as the curators were not forthcoming, I considered our trust breached and that there was no longer an agreement to honor.

The curators maintain that I knew of the work previously, as I had signed a loan form. MACBA’s loan forms include an image of the work the size of a small passport photo, without a description of the work or attendant meaning. As directors, it is imperative that we trust our curators and I’m sure many of us sign loan forms on their behalf without requesting great detail. Furthermore, I believe a director should support a curator’s exhibition premise without demanding in-depth review.

I deeply regret that this institution to which I have been deeply committed for 10 years has been hurt because of a regrettable and avoidable disconnect among the responsible parties. I believe I have acted all along in favor of the interests of the Museum.

Bartomeu Marí