The Department of Culture has presented the new director of the temporary Program of the Department of Culture to advise in the field of heritage. The Minister of Culture, Natàlia Garriga, participated in the presentation; the director of the National Art Museum of Catalonia (MNAC), Pepe Serra, and the new director of the program, Manuel Borja-Villel. The general director of Cultural Heritage, Sònia Hernández, also attended.
Councilor Garriga explained that "the incorporation of Borja-Villel responds to the Department's desire to surround itself with great professionals who will allow us to delve deeper into the issues that are important to us, and contribute reflection to the most strategic projects" . The Culture representative wanted to point out that "with the addition of Manuel Borja-Villel, we are joined by a voice that should help us reflect and add his vision to the rest of the voices that work around the major issues of debate that marks the Museums Plan.”
The new director of the program, Manuel Borja-Villel, has explained that "the art system has changed profoundly, just like society, and in recent decades new voices have appeared that until now had been hidden or silenced". In this context, "working in a country, whose history has not been sufficiently known or, on too many occasions, repressed seemed fundamental to me. Rethinking, together with my colleagues, who have been working on this social idea of the museum for several years, was a challenge and a privilege.” The art historian pointed out that "from here you can do things that might be more difficult to do in other places. There is a specificity in Catalan museums that has always had great potential. You just need to understand it, coordinate efforts and make it possible. That's the challenge and the reason I'm here."
The director of the program will curate exhibition proposals; it will add to the internationalization of Catalan art (as the councilor has recalled, without going any further, Borja-Villel has just curated the Sao Paulo Biennial); will carry out a cycle of debates around the idea of a "social museum"; and will contribute his voice to the conversation with experts that is being carried out by the National Art Museum of Catalonia. "As a Department, we want to accompany the museum in the best possible way in this new configuration, and we believe that adding this figure to the process of collective reflection that is already taking place is a great opportunity", commented the minister, who also highlighted that there have already been directors, as in the case of Santa Mònica or the Tàpies Foundation, who have already started talks with the director of the program and who are interested in collaborating.
The director of the National Museum, Pepe Serra, has referred to the expansion of the MNAC as a New Museum: "We say New Museum because the dimension of the project is of such magnitude that, in fact, it forces us to rethink not only what the MNAC is and what you want to be, but also what an encyclopedic museum is and what it should be well into the 21st century.” And he explained that "our road map is conceived as a project of dialogue and shared responsibility. Our Work Plan is marked by the idea that the museum is national, of the country, and affects the entire territory. We work with the numerous institutions, entities, collectives and people with whom the museum has been establishing projects and alliances and who now allow us to face this great challenge with a network of complicity and a very solid understanding". In this sense, he emphasized that the addition of Manolo Borja-Villel will enrich this "high complexity" project and that he has the specialist to participate in reflection and innovation and make contributions to the project environment that the museum is preparing .
On February 21 of this year, the Government approved this temporary program. On April 11, the MNAC Board of Trustees, made up of the Generalitat de Catalunya, the Ministry of Culture and Barcelona City Council and people and institutions of recognized prestige in the field of culture and patronage, supported to the program and it was agreed that the renowned art historian Manuel Borja-Villel was the ideal person to coordinate the program, "due to his expertise in the field and in the international field." Manuel Borja-Villel was hired by the Generalitat de Catalunya this September.
About Manuel Borja-Villel
Manuel Borja Villel (Burriana, 1957) is an art historian and curator. He was director of the Reina Sofía National Museum from 2008 to 2023. There he carried out a radical modeling of the collection and created the Online Museum, a network of organizations, groups and institutions that, located beyond the museum, they question it, expanding its limits. He was previously director of MACBA (1998-2007) and of the Antoni Tàpies Foundation (1989-1998). From the centers he has directed, he has developed an important task that has marked a turning point in contemporary artistic practice. He has also been one of the curators of the 35th Sao Paulo Biennial.
After completing his degree at the University of Valencia in 1980, he moved to the United States to study, first at Yale University, and then at the City University of New York, where he received his doctorate in 1989. He has curated numerous shows of some of the most relevant artists of our time, such as those dedicated to Marcel Broodthaers or Lygia Clark. Likewise, the recovery of works by little-known or unjustly forgotten authors, such as Andrzej Wróblewski, Nasreen Mohamedi, Ree Mortono and Ulises Carrión, has been very significant. Borja-Villel has also organized important theses exhibitions, such as La ciutat de la gent (1996), A theater without a theater (2007), Principi Potosí (2010), Playgrounds. Reinvent the Square (2014) or Maquinacions (2023).
His latest book is entitled Magnetic Fields. Texts on art and politics (Arcàdia, 2020) and has recently been published also in Italian and Portuguese, in expanded editions.