Sunday, 14 June 2020

My responsibilty for this vandalism

Father António Vieira's statue in Lisbon (Photo: Nuno Fox, for the newspaper Expresso)

The vandalism, destruction or removal of statues is not today’s “fashion”. I already knew that, but I didn’t know how far back this story went. In an interview for the New York Times, art historian Erin L. Thompson mentioned that there are statues of Assyrian kings with curses carved on them (“He who knocks down my statue, let him be in pain for the rest of his life”) and that date from 2700 B.C. Thompson’s career, according to the newspaper, has been spent on thinking what it means when people deliberately destroy icons of cultural heritage. Placing a statue in the public space is a political decision, a public statement, an attempt to solidify a society’s acknowledgement of a person’s values, character and contribution to society. The public space is a place of political affirmation; but also of contestation. These public affirmations of an official version of history are not necessarily immortal and do not necessarily make sense for ever.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

From silence to a hashtag to taking a stand

The news that the director of the Toledo Museum of Art, Alan Levine, wished to “reemphasize” at this point that the museum does not have a political stand sounded odd and anachronic to me. Not only because I joined a long time ago the group of culture professionals who advocate that culture is not neutral or apolitical, but mainly because in the US context, and elsewhere, things have effectively taken a different turn.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Competition for museum directors: a big step forward

Image taken from We Are Museums
As this is a matter of international interest, here's the translation of my article today in the Portuguese newspaper Público.

I can't breath

Photo: Joe Raedle / Getty Images, taken from NPR

The year of 2014 was marked in the USA by the death of unarmed black people in the hands of police officers in the cities of Ferguson, Cleveland and New York. It was the year Eric Garner died, repeating “I can’t breath”…

That same year, in their joint statement on Ferguson and related events (which became known as “Museums Respond to Ferguson”), museum professionals took a stand regarding the role of museums in the face of those tragic deaths. There are three points from that statement that I highlighted in a post I wrote at the time.