Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Walls Will Come Down at El Museo del Barrio

This is a good article that was written in New York's "Daily News." It touches upon the neoliberalization of New York City and the decline of the Puerto Rican in this Gotham City of the 21st Century. Culture. of course, is now something waterdown and shared by all and not something individual, special, and personal. It must give in to the "demands of the market" (i.e., capitalism)such as everything else in our society. Dignity and respect are never high up on he skeme of planners. Its all about sustability, and that means making sure the dollars are pouring in. --Khalil Al-Puerto Riquenyo

The Walls Will Come Down at El Museo del Barrio

By María Vega
NY Daily News

Wednesday, May 28th 2008, 4:00 AM

The galleries of the venerable Museo del Barrio have officially closed to make way for the last stage of a $28 million renovation that will give a needed face-lift to the city’s only Latin-focused museum.

After a year delay, El Museo, on Fifth Ave. and 104th St., is scheduled to reopen in the fall of next year with a new glass facade, a redesigned courtyard, an expanded shop and a new cafe.

“What this renovation will bring is, first, the recognition that El Museo is now an open institution for all who enjoy our culture,” says Julián Zugazagoitia, the museum’s director.

The glass facade “will allow for more engagement with the community, of course, but also with people who are not Latinos.” But, he says, it will continue to be, a museum “with a Latino heart and an universal spirit.”

Only El Museo’s theater will remain open for presentations and performances as well as to host its annual summer concerts series, which normally takes place in the courtyard.

To mark the temporary shutdown, the museum will tonight host a private “demolition party,” with an appearance by its founding director, Raphael Montañez Ortiz.

Montañez Ortiz, an artist known for his ceremonial destructivism performances in which, for example, he smashes pianos to pieces, plans to do “a symbolic break through the wall” at El Museo.

The museum’s last exhibit before closing, “Arte Vida: Actions by Artists of the Americas, 1960-2000,” was a well-received retrospective on Latino performance art.

“Shows like Arte Vida could not take place at the Met,” says Montañez Ortiz, 74, whose focus now is computer art.

Zugazagoitia, who has presided over exhibitions such as “MoMA at El Museo,” showcasing MoMA’s collection of Latin American art, and “Retratos,” which focused on portraits, has had a tumultuous run as director.

He got an icy reception 5½ years ago, when he moved uptown from the Guggenheim.

“I was not aware there was going to be such a shock about my appointment because I was not born in Puerto Rico,” says the Mexico City-born Zugazagoitia.
His national origin was just one part of the conflict. Zugazagoitia’s background includes a doctorate from the Sorbonne in Paris and work at well-heeled international institutions that are galaxies away from working-class Latino East Harlem.

To many neighborhood leaders, his appointment confirmed that El Museo, founded in 1969, was on the path of abandoning its community roots in favor of a more profitable, and less Boricua, future.

Some of the critics consider it an achievement that, as a result of their pressure, El Museo’s board now includes two community representatives.

As much pain and anger as there was, the crisis “pointed out in a very dramatic way and a very explicit way how many people do care about El Museo,” says Zugazagoitia, whose future with the museum is unclear.

The Guggenheim is looking for a new director and, according to published reports, Zugazagoitia may be readying for a move back downtown.

“I work here at the will of my board,” he says.

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