Controversial figure appointed to lead public art museum in Korea

By 이우영
  • Published : Dec 2, 2015 - 18:25
  • Updated : Dec 2, 2015 - 18:26

Bartomeu Mari, former director of the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, has been appointed to lead the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said Wednesday.

Mari is the first foreign director to lead the state-run public art museum in Korea. He is currently president of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art. 
Bartomeu Mari (MMCA)

“We expect Mari to help the MMCA to gain a concrete foundation to upgrade into a global art museum,” said the ministry in a press release. 

Mari will replace the current acting director Kim Jeong-bae as early as Dec. 14 to begin his three-year term at the museum. The director position has been lying vacant for more than a year since former director Jeong Hyeon-min resigned over allegations of intervening in the museum’s recruitment process to get an acquaintance hired.

Mari’s appointment came amid wide opposition by the Korean art community. In early November, more than 650 Korean artists and curators, including some internationally known figures such as Kim Beom, Koo Jeong-a, Park Chan-kyung and Noh Sun-tag, signed a petition opposing Mari as the new MMCA director, citing a censorship scandal, not his nationality, as their reason for doing so.

Mari caused an uproar in the global art community when he canceled an exhibition titled “The Beast and the Sovereign” at the MACBA over a sculpture depicting sodomy involving former Spanish King Juan Carlos, Bolivian labor leader Domitila Chungara and a dog. However, the exhibition opened as scheduled. Mari resigned from that role following the controversy.

By Lee Woo-young (wylee@heraldcorp.com)