Buenos Aires Herald. Sunday, June 30, 2002
By Alina Tortosa
For the Herald
Marcelo Pacheco (1959), the very recently appointed Chief Curator to the Malba, the Museum of Latin American Art that houses the Eduardo Costantini Collection, a well known art historian and curator, brings with him to his new position a solid background of museum and curatorial practice experience. A fantastic asset in a country where museum directors appointments have often been political choices rather than professional ones. He worked at the Museum of Fine Arts of Buenos Aires from 1986 to 1993 in the Archives department and as curator, he has taught at the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires, the most prestigious state run secondary school, at the University of Buenos Aires, and at the Universidad del Cine (B.A). In 2000 he taught a post graduate seminar on curatorial practices as guest professor of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Santiago de Chile. He has acted as curator and curatorial advisor in shows in Brasil, Spain and the US. As from 1989 he has taken part in national and international congresses and seminars on art history, art theory and on curatorial practices. As a curator he has staged exhibitions of contemporary and historical art, as an art historian he has written on historical and contemporary artists, as an investigator his specific chosen field is Argentine art of the 1920s. From 1993 to last week he was director of the Espigas Foundation a private comprehensive archive of the history of Argentine visual arts.
It is impossible to day for the artistic director of a museum to cope with the day to day administration and manage the curatorial department. Pacheco explained that the internal management of the Malba is being reshuffled, following contemporary concepts of museum administration. Ana Goldman is in charge of management, Tomás Vengerow is at the head of human resources, and Carlos Galtieri will start next week as head of the funding department. Gualtieri, who arrives from “Vida Silvestre” is an NGO specialist. Victoria Noorthorn, who was head hunted by the Malba while working in New York, is the vice curator, under Pacheco.
Pacheco and his team are currently working on the exhibitions to be held in the second half of 2002 and in the whole of 2003. On July 4 will open an exhibition of work by the Brazilian artist Lasar Segal, and the several times postponed retrospective of work by Guillermo Kuica is on for next year. The rest of the calendar will be announced shortly.
A tall, thin, self contained private man, Pacheco is not often seen in public social visual art to dos but is a key figure in any serious cultural art related project. He has a low-key, aristocratic attitude towards public exposure per se, and was in no hurry to accept positions that did not suit his professional choices. His name was mentioned on and off in the past as a possible director for the Museum of Fine Arts and for the Museum of Modern Art, but he would not accept job commitments that were not backed by coherent political and administrative policies. As a professional connoisseur of Argentine art he has influenced the buying choices of important collectors. He is highly political in a quiet manner and at times one has sensed his influence behind certain scenes as a sort of eminence gris.
Pacheco, who is backed, as it reads above, by a solid academic background and a long analytical exposure to the issues that make up the chore of Argentine and Latin American art curatorial concerns, is very well suited for his new position. He is an articulate and powerful speaker, who can analyse and debate fluently the subjects presented to him, and who speaks out his mind clearly on controversial subjects. In a long interview with the Herald he discussed his decision to accept this job, the Argentine and Latin American art exposure possibilities under current economic and art political circumstances, and his commitments as Chief Curator of the Malba.
Pacheco sees the Malba as the perfect place to achieve stature and exposure as regional exponent of Argentine and Latin American art exhibitions. “The concept of a packaged exhibition that has become prevalent during the last 15 years within world wide circuits relates to the power management of the cultural industries”, said Pacheco. He believes that what Malba has to bear in mind is that this global circuit sets us at the ultimate receiving end of these “first world” tinned proposals that do not enhance our performance. “I think one has to be intelligent enough to look around and realize how things work, what is the map like, and this is what I think is so exciting about an institution like Malba. One ought to take into account how Brazil has worked for the last 15 years, how Mexican and Venezuelan institutions function, how other institutions are beginning to work out, such as the new MAAC in Ecuador, the anthropological and contemporary art museum that will open next October. Cuba has construed an alternative model and format of the traditional biennial that is still one of the more interesting cases to study.” Pacheco suggested that the Cuba Biennial may have influenced the set up of the new Lima Biennial, which opened this year for the second time, with a clear vision of their regional identity.
It is this knowing who we are and working from where we come from that Pacheco sees as the distinctive role of the Malba and of himself as curator. “The Lima Biennial, as well as the Cuban Biennial, bring out the way a good product may compete internationally when it is thought out from its regional potential, from its own strength and not from the totally erroneous and deceitful concept that one may compete in the international (first world) circuit”.
This wanting to belong to a Western world outside Latin America “has been one of the cultural syndromes that Argentina has dragged since the May Revolution,” adds Pacheco “I remember when I worked on modernism and the avant-garde of the 1920s, one of the mystifying aspects in Argentine historiography was that it had been designed after imported European models. It was not a question of expansion by the Europeans models, it was an Argentine choice. (..) It is fabulous how we cannot relate to our real context, but neither can we relate to the other one”.
Later in the conversation Pacheco said that Argentina is afraid to look at herself, so she plays at being somebody else, which is well illustrated in the recurrent looking glasses in the stories by Borges and in the work by Liliana Porter, an Argentine artist who has lived in New York for 40 years but still illustrates in her work this cultural misunderstanding.
Pacheco feels that Malba may construe a discourse and start a debate to establish a regional and international identity through exhibitions, publications and its education department, if it keeps in mind the reality of geographical and historical matters.
Pacheco´s appointment is a welcome sign that the Malba, and the Argentine visual art museum scene may be coming of age.