Exhibition The Beast and the Sovereign, presentation Masist Gül


As artists in the exhibition La bestia y el soberano/The Beast and the Sovereign,  we express our indignation and disgust for the current situation at the MACBA concerning said exhibition and the course of events up to the present moment. We condemn as authoritarian and regressive the way in which the MACBA director, the consortium and the managing committee have operated.

At this moment we as artists are communicating on how to respond. We are researching what actions we can take in protest of the course of events. Our protest is directed not only at the firing of the curators, but, more broadly and more fundamentally, at the way in which  our  work and this exhibition has become a pawn in a power play that reveals a complete lack of democracy in the institute, a cynical hypocrisy as regards to the content of the work and exhibitions the institute displays, and the bankruptcy of the integrity and credibility of this museum.

Specifically we object to the following:

01. The acceptance of cessation of Chief Curator Valentín Roma and the Head of Public Programs Paul B. Preciado by the Executive Committee of MACBA is an acceptance of the argument put forward by the ex-director of the museum Bartomeu Marí and consequently an endorsement of the censorship of freedom of cultural expression that triggered the crisis.
02. The Executive Committee of the MACBA does not represent the plurality of civil society, nor does it cover all actors in the cultural sector, which put into question its decision to dismiss the curators of the show.
03. We reject the instrumentalization that governing body and Executive Committee of MACBA are conducting in a process of re-democratization of the institution opened by the crisis provoked by Mr. Bartomeu Marí.

Efrén Álvarez, Angela Bonadies and Juan José Olavarría, Peggy Buth, Ines Doujak and John Barker, Edgar Endress, Oier Etxeberria, Eiko Grimberg, Banu Cennetoglu and Philippine Hoegen, Geumhyung Jeong, Jan Peter Hammer, Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, Hans Scheirl, Wu Tsang, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Viktor Vorobyev & Yelena Vorobyeva, Sergio Zevallos.



The MACBA crisis—triggered by Bartomeu Marí's decision to cancel the exhibition “La bestia y el soberano" ("The Beast and the Sovereign") last week—has taken a dramatic turn (see MACBA Barcelona Show Canceled Over Pornographic Artwork Ridiculing Spanish King Juan Carlos).

Yesterday, MACBA's board of trustees accepted Marí's resignation. It also fired the two MACBA curators involved in the exhibition, Valentín Roma and Paul B. Preciado, at the request of the outgoing director, who cited “an irrecoverable loss of trust" in them, El País reports.

Many have seen Marí's last move as an act of revenge.

It all began last Monday, when Marí claims he first saw the piece Not Dressed for Conquering by the Austrian artist Ines Doujak. The sculpture features former Spanish king Juan Carlos and Bolivian Labor leader Domitila Chúngara involved in a sexual act with a dog on a bed of SS helmets. (The artist and curators dispute Marí's claim, and produced last week a loan form for the piece, signed by Marí on February 25, as evidence, reports  El Confidencial).

Marí asked the curators and artist to remove the piece from the show, and, given their refusal, decided to cancel the whole exhibition, which was slated to open the following day.

Outrage over Cancellation

“La bestia y el soberano" is a co-production of MACBA and Stuttgart's Württemberg Kunstverein, whose co-directors, Hans D. Christ and Iris Dressler, have co-curated the exhibition with Roma and Preciado. Artists featured in the exhibition include Juan Downey, León Ferrari, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Mary Reid Kelley, and Wu Tsang.

The decision to cancel the show sparked wide-spread outrage. MACBA's staff immediately requested a meeting with the museum's management to “understand the implications of the disagreement between the curators and the director." A group gathered at the museum's doors on Wednesday evening to protest the cancellation of the show.

Some voices even suggested that given that the president of honor of MACBA's board of trustees is former Queen Sofía, wife of Juan Carlos, the cancellation might have been the result of external pressures. Marí consistently denied this, telling the Spanish weekly El Cultural: "The board of trustees had nothing to do with this. I took the decision myself."

But on Friday afternoon, Marí backtracked and announced that the exhibition would finally open the following day—controversial sculpture included.

He said in a open letter: "In response to the unanimity of voices from professional associations, entities, and individuals demanding the opening of the exhibition 'La bestia y el soberano,' I have decided to make it accessible to the public from tomorrow, Saturday March 21."

And the exhibition opened indeed, with a reported 48 percent increase in visitor numbers, according to El País.

MACBA is Going Through a Profound Crisis

Roma and Preciado's surprise dismissal highlights yet again the huge turnover of curators at MACBA since Martí took the helm of the museum in 2008, after four years as chief curator. Friedrich Meschede, Chus Martínez, and Carlos Guerra have all come and gone since. Roma and Preciado were appointed as recently as January 2015: Roma as chief curator, and Preciado as chief of public programs.

Marí was appointed to substitute Manuel Borja-Villel, who left Barcelona to direct Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid to great critical acclaim—and a few controversies of his own (see Which Five European Museum Directors Are Doing the Best Job? and Angry Christians Demand Resignation of Museo Reina Sofía Director).

According to a document released by the board of trustees, Marí will stay in post for three or four months, until a suitable replacement is found. The curators's dismissal is effective immediately, but the museum will implement the rest of their 2015 program.

“MACBA is going through a profound crisis," Jaume Ciurana, president of the MACBA Consortium, admitted yesterday following the board meeting. “We want to start a new period in the life of the museum that, as a public entity, assumes the responsibility of transmitting art, of offering multiple visions, and generating debate," he declared.

On that last point at least, MACBA has already delivered beyond expectations.


The exhibition is an exploration of how contemporary artistic practices question and deconstruct the Western and metaphysical definition of political sovereignty: their new way of understanding freedom and emancipation beyond individual autonomy, as well as the modern form of the nation-state.

The title of the exhibition is borrowed from the last seminar conducted by Jacques Derrida in 2002-3, on the limits of political sovereignty in the metaphysical tradition. For the French philosopher, the beast and the sovereign are the two allegorical figures in politics that have traditionally stood above the law: the beast that supposedly ignores the law and the sovereign whose power is defined precisely by his capacity to uphold the law. This ontotheological division produces a series of binary oppositions of genre, class, species, sexuality, race and disability that structure the relations of dominance. On the one hand, the beast regarded as animality, nature, femininity, the South, the slave, the colonial site, the coloured subject, the abnormal. On the other, the sovereign representing the human and even superhuman, God, the State, masculinity, the North, the white and sexually normal subject. Is sovereignty possible beyond power? Can sovereignty occur by questioning these relations of dominance?

With works by Efrén Álvarez, Ángela Bonadies and Juan José Olavarría, Peggy Buth, Martin Dammann, Ines Doujak and John Barker, Juan Downey, Edgar Endress, Oier Etxeberria, León Ferrari, Eiko Grimberg, Masist Gül (presented by Banu Cennetoğlu and Philippine Hoegen), Ghasem Hajizadeh, Jan Peter Hammer, Geumhyung Jeong, Glenda León, Julia Montilla, Rabih Mroué, Ocaña, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Prabhakar Pachpute, Mary Reid Kelley, Jorge Ribalta, Hans Scheirl, Wu Tsang, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Yelena Vorobyeva and Victor Vorobyev, Sergio Zevallos.

Curators: Hans D. Christ, Iris Dressler, Paul B. Preciado and Valentín Roma.
Exhibition organized and co-produced by the Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona (MACBA) and the Württembergischer Kunstverein (WKV) Stuttgart.