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The South Korean art community has released a statement requesting that the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) implement reforms to protect artistic freedom ahead of the appointment of Bartomeu Marí as director of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA).
The decision to appoint Marí has been met with objections due to his controversial resignation as director of the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) in March, after he was accused of attempting to have a sculptor removed from an exhibition called La Bestia y el Soberano (The Beast and the Sovereign).
The satirical sculpture by Ines Doujak, titled Not Dressed for Conquering, featured former Spanish King Juan Carlos and Bolivian labour leader and feminist Domitila Chúngara involved in a sexual act with a dog on a bed of SS helmets. The exhibition went ahead despite Marí’s alleged attempts to cancel the whole exhibition when curators refused to remove the sculptor, leading to him firing two curators and his own resignation.
The Korean art community released their statement in November when Marí was the leading candidate for the position. They stated: “We demand that both the MMCA and its overseeing body, the MCST, offer plausible explanations regarding the appointment of the new MMCA director and institute fully fledged reforms to protect and foster artistic freedom so they may perform the duties they were originally intended as proponents of the arts.”
They also used the statement, which has been signed by nearly 800 artists, to highlight their concerns about the South Korean government’s mounting censorship of and bureaucratic restrictions on artistic freedom. They state: “We strongly oppose all variants of censorship and surveillance that harm the autonomy of art, and we pledge multifaceted, continued efforts to recover the autonomy and independence of art.”
Marí, who is also currently the president of the International Committee for Museums and collections of Modern Art (CiMAM), was officially appointed as director on 2 December leading the group to release a new statement again asking the newly appointed director and the MCST institute reforms protecting artistic freedom, which would be submitted to the culture minister and director on his appointment today.
The new director took nearly two weeks to respond to the complaints by stating he opposes censorship of any kind. He told a press conference in Seoul: “I stand against all kinds of censorship, and I support the freedom of expression. These are my values.”
He added: “I am sad there are artists who opposed my nomination. But there are many who support me. I hope I can be judged by what I do here, not by what some people say happened in the past.”