Election times speed up everything, even what they shouldn't because it was already delayed years ago. In Argentina, each new presidential stage is experienced as an apocalypse for those who leave their share of power or the position they exercise. Not to mention the permanent appointments of thousands of public employees, related to the management that appointed them, who go on to fatten the pachydermic State. The call for the MNBA had a delay of four years but this week it was launched at full speed.
From last Tuesday until June 30, the Ministry of Culture of the Nation, led by Tristán Bauer, finally called a competition for the position of executive director of the National Museum of Fine Arts (MNBA). It is the most emblematic of the 23 national museums, for the richness of its collection and its centrality, with a powerful Association of Friends that adds value to its collection.
The current director of the MNBA, "extended" for the last four years, is Andrés Duprat. He has been in office for two terms; in fact, he was the first elected by contest, in a fair based on scores between candidates, just at the end of the 2014 elections that marked the end of Cristina Kirchner's second presidency. Let's say that it was far from the best timing in both cases, given that in fact, an outgoing minister consecrates who will exercise his position in the next election cycle. In that sense, doing so after the elections would avoid the present feeling that an attempt is being made to leave in office an elected member of the departing government.
In fact, the ruling party will bequeath a group of key institutional administrators, of an opposition sign, to the next government, which according to the polls does not have many chances of being Kirchnerist. The mechanism reiterates the pirouette of arriving scratching the date of the end of the political period, but is even more hasty in the fact that it no longer requires a project that the candidates -informed this week- must submit. If in 2014 it was by score in various required competitions, this edition will submit a list of three names to Bauer. It will be the outgoing Minister who chooses the director with whom he will barely live for three months.
The Jury of academic prestige is integrated by Analía Solomonoff, cultural manager, curator and since 2016, director of the Provincial Museum of Fine Arts Rosa Galisteo de Rodríguez, of Santa Fe; Laura Malosetti Costa, art historian and dean of the School of Art and Heritage of the National University of San Martín; visual artist Eduardo Stupía; Fernando Pérez Oyarzún, architect and former director of the National Museum of Fine Arts of Chile, and Cristina Cosaka, national director of Public Employment.
The Fine Arts has an organic dependence different from the rest of the institutions of the country that depend on the Ministry of Culture of the Nation. Its direct boss is the Secretary of Heritage, Valeria González. The others depend on the General Directorate of Museums, in the hands of María del Carmen Baldasarre.
After the expiration of his term of office, in the Duprat contest an extension for that time was not agreed. So it has survived with extensions every six months, which Bauer agreed to extend, which for any management is a precarious mechanism. However, one of the valued traits of Director Duprat has been his ability to coexist with good dialogue with two high-contrast administrations.
But why call for a contest right now? Four months before a presidential election? Consulted by Clarín Cultura, Valeria González says that the competition process "is very complex because different areas of the government intervene. And because it's a democratic process, no one can decide it for themselves." He argues that the pandemic delayed everything, which is true. "In addition, says the Kirchner official, "for a matter of good sense could not be convened before. During the pandemic, activities were paralyzed.
When asked why this time the candidates do not present a five-year project on their plans for the position, if they win it, González makes a silence on the other end of the phone line and says that the mechanism is the same as that established in 2014.
However, this is not the case. On that occasion, a jury chose a list of three candidates based on projects submitted for the institution to which it aspired, to which it gave scores. Former Minister of Culture Pablo Avelluto confirms that the name was decided based on the qualifications of the specific projects submitted. This time in the MNBA it will be Bauer who signs the fate of the chosen one.
Avelluto adds: "The Fine Arts had been competed during the time of Cristina Kirchner and the appointment of Andrés Duprat had been drawn. That was already substantiated and we only put in office the one who had obtained the highest score, which was Duprat. All other museums were called for competition in two or three stages. The jury presented the minister with a shortlist with the best scores. Each applicant presented a written project, in some cases these did not correspond to the order of merit obtained, but in no case were there claims of nullity or review.
Ways of relativizing professional merit
Here is another detail that makes noise. The current bases do not require a project; Is it useful for institutions to have a contest in which no one really competes? "Argentine citizens or foreigners with legal residence in the territory, of legal age, who meet the profile of the position and who during the five years prior to the time of their registration have not dedicated themselves professionally or as a main mode or accessory of life to the trade of works of art" may be presented. The bases require the candidate "a writing, written for that purpose of no more than five thousand (5,000) words (...), in which he exposes his ideas on the most appropriate policies to fulfill the mission of the Museum and the orientation that would give to its management ..." For more information, "the stages of the contest include an evaluation of curricular and labor background, a technical evaluation through written examination and an interview evaluation".
This is not only true for the MNBA. It is also about the bases for the imminent nine calls that are coming in block. In the city of Buenos Aires: Manzana de las Luces, Museo del Cabildo, Palais de Glace, Museo Nacional Decorativo, Museo Nacional de Arte Oriental, Casa Nacional del Bicentenario, Museo del Grabado. In Jujuy, the Terry Museum, and in Entre Ríos, the San José Palace. None of these institutions was competed during the administration of Mauricio Macri. So all its ad hoc directors have high hopes of survival for four years, under an eventual triumph of the opposition.
Valeria González confirmed to this newspaper that the announcement of the new director of the MNBA – whether Duprat is confirmed or another candidate is anointed – will be known at the end of August. That is, after the PASO.