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Madrid, Spanish Far-Right Media and International Art Community Confront After the Resignation of Former Director of Reina Sofía.. and Others


Manuel Borja-Villel (b. 1957). Credit: e-flux

Spanish Far-Right Media and International Art Community Confront After the Resignation of Former Director of Reina Sofía

Manuel Borja-Villel (b. 1957), the former director of Spain’s state museum Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid), has been in office for 15 years, establishing the museum as one of the most pioneering contemporary art institutions. However, during his tenure, he repeatedly received criticism from the far-right media, which criticized him for making “propaganda exhibitions” and argued that his reappointments were fraudulent.

After the sudden news of his resignation in January, and as the election for the next director is forthcoming, the Spanish far-right media ABC has again alleged him and the museum of being part of the “cultural war (between the left and the right)”. However, an open letter criticizing ABC and supporting Borja-Villel was posted online on January 30, and more than 1900 people engaging in art signed it by February 6 (and the signature list is still getting longer).

The open letter contended that the media’s claim is defamation to the progressive model of the current Reina Sophia museum, and demanded the state provide proper standards for the election of the next director. It also urged the community to voice for the future of the museum. After his departure, Borja-Villel is planned to cocurate the 2023 São Paulo Biennale, which is set to open in September.


View of Ginny on Frederick in 2022, a tidy London art gallery in a former sandwich bar, owned by Freddie Powell. Credit: Ginny on Frederick

Changes in London Galleries After the Brexit

In 2020, the UK went through Brexit, and the decision is still impacting the art scene in London. Specifically, galleries in London are searching for fundamental shifts in their business model. From the 1990s to the early 2000s, the Y.B.A (‘Young British Artists’, group of by then young artists including Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin) led the international art market, making London the number two city in art and also setting the elitist star artist・rich gallery model as the standard.

However, tax became payable after Brexit and the market contraction caused young gallerists to get out of the standard white cubes in rich areas and readjust their gallery vision. Now, they are renting small and scrappy buildings such as a former sandwich bar. Also, they are trying to present artworks of minor voices with radical, anti-elitist vision.

Their communication tool has also become more direct as they use social media instead of invitation letters. Exemplifying galleries are Ginny on Frederick(founded in 2016), Guts Gallery(founded in 2020), and Sundy and Niru Ratnam(founded in 2020).


Farah Al Qasimi, ‘Star Machine,’ 2021. Courtesy of the Artist and The Third Line.

Photographer Farah Al Qasimi’s First Solo Exhibition in Australia

Photographer Farah Al Qasimi’s (b. 1991) first solo exhibition in Australia, “Star Machine,” opens at the Art Gallery of Western Australia on February 4, featuring her key photo and video works from the past 5 years.

Born in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and working in Dubai and New York, she is best known for her photographs of life in the Persian Gulf. Also, in 2018 she ran a public art project in New York in which she installed her series of photographs on one hundred bus shelters throughout the city.

Her photographs are composed of multiple layers conveying otherworldliness. Images are both mundane and abnormal, they are documenting the ordinary scenes of hers and her acquaintances’ but also resemble commercials. Her works are attracting a range of interests of collectors, dealers, and curators.

She was listed in the Forbes list of 30 Under 30 in 2020. She is now participating in the 15th Sharjah Biennial, is planned to have Europe debut in Berlin solo show after Perth, and will participate in the forthcoming 14th Gwangju Biennial in April.

Farah Al Qasimi

Star Machine

February 4, 2023 – July 30, 2023

Art Gallery of Western Australia

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