Pablo Lafuente, Fabio Szwarcwald and Keyna Eleison at the MAM Rio headquarters. Photo: Disclosure.

NThis Tuesday, the 18th, MAM Rio announced Keyna Eleison and Pablo Lafuente as the duo that will assume the artistic direction of the institution. Eleison, 41 years old, is from Rio de Janeiro, has a master's degree in Art History and a specialist in History and Architecture from PUC-Rio. She is curator, writer and researcher and currently teaches at the Escola de Artes Visuais do Parque Lage. The Spaniard Lafuente, 44 years old, was co-curator of the 31st Bienal de São Paulo, in 2014. Between 2018 and this year, he coordinated the CCBB Educativo Program at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Rio. From 2008 to 2013 he was also Associate Curator at the Office for Contemporary Art in Norway.

The choice is the result of a four-month selection process that attracted more than 100 applications. The recent call marks the first time that MAM Rio has made an open selection process for a prominent position, and it came as a celebration of the museum's 72 years, completed on May 3rd. Since January 2020, MAM Rio has been under the leadership of executive director Fabio Szwarcwald and this initiative is part of a repositioning of the institution, which has one of the most important collections of modern and contemporary art in Latin America – with around 15 construction.

MAM Rio Helmet
The MAM Rio building. Photo: Fabio Souza.

To choose its new artistic director, MAM Rio formed two committees, one internal and one technical, the latter with nine members: Ayrson Heráclito; Benjamin Seroussi; Diane Lima; Aeneid Braga; Jochen Volz; Manuela Moscoso; Mauricio Dias; Renata Bittencourt and Roberta Saraiva. Started in May, the selection processes carried out by the committees were funneling the candidacies until five finalists remained in the final stage of the process.

The choice of the duo, according to Szwarcwald, seeks “return to the tripod, which was the soul of MAM, which is art, education and culture”. In the announcement of the new artistic direction, he stated: “We want a museum attuned to modernity, a museum that is increasingly social, that focuses on its city, on the peripheral projects that take place in it”. When introducing Eleison and Lafuente, he added that the transformation process that MAM Rio is going through seeks to make it more relevant in the cultural scene of the capital of Rio. “A more cultural museum, with several actions in several areas other than the visual arts, such as cinema, dance, theater, music.”

The idea is reverberated by the new artistic directors. Eleison says that in the project submitted for the duo’s candidacy, MAM was thought of as a museum of intersections: “inside, outside, in the park, beyond, in our homes, downtown, on the outskirts, in the country and in the world” . An artistic project that aims to create conditions and activities to encourage and orchestrate this connection to become “a habit and a living museum, an expanded understanding of our material and immaterial culture”.

For Lafuente, the task of creating a more organic relationship with the museum involves a transformation from a visited institution to an inhabited one. “MAM is not just the space demarcated by its architecture, it is also the park that welcomes it, the passage of Guanabara Bay and the experiences of those who pass through these places. It is necessary to create mechanisms that guarantee the exchange”. Such an exchange, according to him, already begins with the dialogue created between the two directors. As the curator stated, the dual directorships bring a specific dynamic that already carries the diversity of views, taking into account that “two people will always look a little differently, at the same time that this leads to a dynamic of negotiation; there are two perspectives that will have to negotiate a common position between them, and thus continue this dynamic with the rest of the teams that make up the museum, in turn many and very diverse as well”.

It is necessary to build relationships of engagement and feedback in these times when we need to learn to be together again, says the Spanish curator.

Diversity was also addressed by the new directors in relation to the artistic narratives provoked by the MAM Rio collection. The duo intends to work with the “presences and absences” of the museum to tell stories that are not being shown. “The task of reinvention must come from MAM and its collections, they are vocabularies that we have to create narratives and demand attention, study and dissemination. We are aware, however, that the story told by MAM is not enough. Due to accidents, invisibilities, his vocabulary is limited, as, for example, his relationship with black and indigenous production. Our artistic program allows us to work both with what is available and with absences”, says Eleison.

The researcher adds: “For us, enchantment is a fundamental word for thinking about the Museum of Modern Art. For the museum to work, it needs to be shared by all of us and therefore the collections, programs and staff must reflect the diversity of society, its languages ​​and histories.” Completing the tripod mentioned by Szwarcwald comes the directors' commitment to the museum's education and programming processes by strengthening the MAM Cinematheque – whose new space will be inaugurated – and by bringing back the Escola Bloco.


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