Art Workers’ Self-Defense Initiative: Open Statement Regarding the National Art Museum of Ukraine (NAMU)
The National Art Museum of Ukraine (NAMU) is in crisis. Very soon, the Minister of Culture Mykhailo Kulyniak is supposed to announce his decision whether to entrust the Museum Council of the Ministry of Culture with recommending a candidate to fill the position of General Director of NAMU or to appoint Tatiana Mironova, who over six months as Acting Director has proved herself (both within and outside the Museum’s walls) incompetent to head Ukraine’s leading art museum.
In early April 2012, Mironova was chosen to temporarily replace long-time NAMU Director Anatoliy Melnyk, who was removed from his position as part of the Ministry of Culture’s sweeping program of museum “modernization.” Since then, she has provoked strong criticism from members of the museum staff and from the Ukrainian art community at large.
Concurrently with Mironova’s appointment as Acting Director, an open competition was announced to fill the position of General Director. Legally, the decision of the committee responsible for choosing the best candidate serves as a recommendation; the ultimate appointment is made by the Minister of Culture. The competition was prolonged for months, and only after the frustration of the museum staff turned into public discussion did the Ministry of Culture set a final date for convening the committee to make a decision – October 12. The votes were split between two candidates – Mironova and Yuliya Lytvynets, current Chief Curator and 11-year veteran of NAMU. Afterward, the committee submitted a request to the Minister to entrust the Museum Council, a body composed of museum professionals from all over Ukraine, to decide which candidate to recommend.
Meanwhile, hundreds of art professionals and members of the Museum’s public signed letters calling for transparency in the process of selecting the new museum director. Official recommendations were made by the Public Council of the Ministry of Culture to publicize the programs of the candidates, to make public the minutes of the meeting of the selection committee, and to hold a public discussion with the candidates. A group of concerned citizens – members of the Ukrainian art community and the Museum’s public – have organized a few public gatherings to discuss the fate of the Museum and circulated letters of support for the institution, calling on the Minister of Culture to appoint a new director with the necessary qualifications – experience working in a museum and familiarity with the specific conditions of NAMU.
The Minister of Culture has been silent since Friday, October 12.
On October 16, members of the Museum staff published an open letter addressed to the Minister of Culture, in which they refute a number of slanderous remarks and false claims published by Mironova in a recent blog post (http://blogs.korrespondent.net/celebrities/blog/mironovagallery/a80784). They write, “Given [Mironova’s] glaring incompetence and unsubstantiated allegations, providing of false information, appropriation of the Museum’s past achievements, the team of the National Art Museum of Ukraine demands the immediate dismissal of Ms. Mironova from the post of Acting Director of NAMU and barring her from being appointed director of NAMU” (http://www.museum-ukraine.org.ua/index.php?go=News&in=view&id=7634). The following day, the museum workers began an open protest, calling for Mironova’s immediate dismissal on a sign posted in the museum’s entry hall.
If the Minister of Culture of Ukraine single-handedly appoints Mironova Director of NAMU, ignoring the demands of the Museum staff and greater art community, this will not only bring to a halt the process of intellectual-cultural development spearheaded by the Museum staff over the past few years and herald in a new era of commercialization at the cost of art and integrity; it will also serve as a shining example of the compromising, glamorized, degraded face of Ukrainian culture today.
A group of concerned citizens – members of the Ukrainian art community and the Museum’s public – have circulated a letter of support for the institution, calling on the Minister of Culture to appoint a new director with the necessary qualifications – experience working in a museum and familiarity with the specific conditions of NAMU.
For more information about the situation around the National Art Museum of Ukraine, please see http://istmkyiv.wordpress.com and https://art-leaks.org/2012/10/17/art-workers-self-defense-initiative-open-statement-regarding-the-national-art-museum-of-ukraine-namu/
Please also see this piece by Mykola Ridnyi, “Ukrainian Museums – Between Two Evils.”
UPDATE via ARTMargins
On Friday, November 16, the Minister of Culture of Ukraine appointed Maria Zadorozhna the new director of the National Art Museum. In an unprecedented gesture, the Minister, who has sole legal power to make such appointments, took into account the demands of the museum staff and greater art community to choose a candidate with adequate professional qualifications. After a month of escalating protest (in the form of petitions and frequent public actions) against acting director Tatiana Mironova, the Minister promised to not make his decision single-handedly and called a meeting of the Museum Council of the Ministry of Culture (an advisory body composed of museum professionals from all over the country) to recommend a candidate for the position. Mironova, the owner of a commercially successful contemporary art gallery with no museum experience and wife of a prominent local politician, replaced former director Anatoliy Melnyk in April, after he was scandalously dismissed under the premises of the Ministry of Culture’s museum modernization policy. Zadorozhna, who was the National Art Museum’s Deputy Director of Development for 10 years and involved in the Museum’s innovative recent projects, was one of two candidates recommended by the Museum Council.