'Decede' against white supremacy

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'The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew' (1607), work of Caravaggio.Artefact / Alamy / Cordon PressAlienating the inalienable. Spanish legislation prohibits the disposal of any work belonging to National Heritage. The Prado, which has some 27,000 pieces, cannot put any on the market, even if they are irrelevant. In 1976, the Government authorized the sale of The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew (1607), by Caravaggio, which today belongs to the Cleveland Museum. “The most serious error in the history of Spanish art.” That is the phrase that professor Francisco Calvo Serraller (1948-2018) used to convey the damage of losing the painting. Half a century has passed. Another time, another society. But it is one of the great debates in art. The United States does allow it. Coast to coast. From the MET in New York (it sold a canvas by the painter Gilbert Stuart in January) to the MoMA in San Francisco, everyone has given away (in artistic jargon) works to complete the collection or cover expenses. At its core it reflects an essential question: what does a museum mean today? A treasure container for the elites or a center for the community? Is it reasonable for an artist who donates a work to expect future generations to see his work in perpetuity? How can we justify that in Baltimore—where the black population exceeds 65%—white abstract expressionism is better represented than African-American culture? Curator Glenn Adamson coined the term “progressive decession” to describe sales aimed at eliminating white supremacy in collections. Everything changes. What seems like a masterpiece to one generation, another may consider inconsequential. Is selling an apostasy? “From ethics nothing prevents it, but you have to be ultra-conservative,” warns Manuel Borja-Villel, museum advisor to the Catalan Generalitat. Disposal—always—to buy work. “A collection is layers, and under no circumstances should a director undo what another team has created,” he warns. However, no one wants, either, for his background to be a boat sailing against the current of the spirit of his time. “I would love to acquire works by great women artists (there are few in the Thyssen collection), even if to do so would have to give up a piece by an artist,” admits Guillermo Solana, artistic director of the museum. In America, many small and medium-sized institutions — semi-public or private—they depend on donations and the crisis has depleted funds. The Everson Museum (New York) sold its only Pollock (Red Comostion, 1946) for 11 million euros in 2020 to buy—in the middle of the pandemic—works by women and black creators. Despite the empty box, we should put aside this neoliberal dogma that all problems are solved by the market. The Dallas Meadows avoids it. “We carefully review our purchases and have the support of Southern Methodist University and the Meadows Foundation, our main sponsor,” describes Amanda Dotseth, director of the institution. Perhaps, in 2024, a collection requires departures, omissions; go beyond hoarding. Despite being a path of no return, these steps are recognized by Gabriele Finaldi, director of the National Gallery in London. He lives the same restriction as El Prado. “The history of collecting is also part of what we have to take care of; No one wants to scare donors and I realize that mistakes can be made. The MET sold a painting of [la pintora barroca] Artemisia Gentileschi because she did not consider it an important fabric.” But was she hanging on the right walls? European works of art in American institutions – criticizes Nicola Spinosa, former head of the Capodimonte Museum in Naples – are exiles, since they do not document the civil, cultural, political or religious history of the cities and countries where they were created. What do they paint outside? That is the most difficult word to figure out in the crossword puzzle.

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