Stefan Kalmár, Director of ICA in London, explains how British politics and attacks from the right triggered his departure from the museum
Stefan Kalmár, the very first non-British director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, is stepping down after five years.
Kalmár, who said there should be fixed term limits for museum heads, said he was also starting from concerns about the effects of Brexit and increased government oversight in museums.
“What is happening in the UK is worrying,” Kalmár told Artnet News. “The historic principle of independence between the government and the cultural institutions that it directly finances… [is] to be undermined.
Kalmár said the museum had been the subject of several “right-wing complaints” during his tenure, in which some claimed he was acting as a political entity.
“My favorite quote from one critic in particular was: ‘Promoting anal sex and polyamory to fight Nazism is just one more day for the ICA press service,’” he said. he declares.
His greatest concern for the future of museums is that they can become too dependent on the financial relationships of a director.
” One runs [into the] danger that the director becomes indispensable because the financial health of the organization rests on them ”, he declared. (The CIA receives 21% of its budget from the government.)
“It seems strange that while public offices are – for good reasons – often called, major public cultural institutions are less so,” Kalmár said, noting that he believed the renewal of leadership roles was essential to the growth of a museum.
The ICA reopened on July 6 after being closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic. But while the challenges presented during the lockdown were significant, the situation also led Kalmár to reflect on the institution’s goals, especially in light of conversations around diversity and inclusion.
“If the problems are structural, then the change must also be structural,” Kalmár said. “Unfortunately, organizations of this size and scale are adapting, rightly or wrongly, too slowly. Or at least, too slowly for me.
Kalmár also said that personal reasons led to his departure.
“My own biography as the son of a Hungarian immigrant in West Germany was defined by borders,” Kalmár said. “As a child growing up in East Germany, I was not able to see my father regularly for the first five years of my life, and this defined my belief that we have to fight nationalism and racism. ‘wherever we come from and where we live. “
During Kalmár’s tenure, the CIA hosted retrospectives for Kathy Acker, Julie Becker, and Seth Price, among others, and hosted speakers including whistleblower-turned-activist Chelsea Manning and Spanish philosopher Paul Preciado.
Kalmár previously directed the Artists Space in New York and the Kunstverein München in Munich.
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