KANAL museum cleans up its mess and appoints an artistic director

KANAL museum cleans up its mess and appoints an artistic director
The raw interior of KANAL, a former Citroën garage. © Flickr

The new KANAL-Centre Pompidou art museum due to open by the side of the canal in central Brussels has reacted to art world outrage and appointed a new artistic director.

A new artistic director. In the singular.

She is Polish-born Kasia Redzisz, currently a senior curator at Tate Liverpool in the UK. She was originally nominated for the post, but only in tandem with Bernard Blistène, an executive from the Centre Pompidou in Paris who has been working with KANAL since the two institutions first started cooperating.

The decision to split the job caused uproar in art circles, with KANAL being accused of sexism as well as ignoring the decision of the selection panel, which had preferred Redzisz by six votes to Blistène’s four.

The panel’s vote was simply overturned by director-general Yves Goldstein, who came into KANAL from a career in politics, and has no background in the art world, according to critics.

An open letter calling for his action to be rescinded and Redzisz to be made sole artistic director had been signed by 600 members of the art and museum world 24 hours after it was circulated.

Goldstein has now reversed his decision, and the selection panel’s vote stands. Redzisz will take up office alone. Blistène will remain with the establishment – his contract with the Pompidou in Paris ends next month. He is being kept on, Goldstein said, in the light of “his experience and his knowledge of the Centre Pompidou and the collection”.

It remains unclear what his exact role will be.

The Board of the KANAL Foundation has considered that both Kasia Redzisz and Bernard Blistène have a role to play in the future of KANAL. The Board has therefore accepted in principle the collaboration for which contours are yet to be specified,” the museum said in a press release.

This decision was taken with the agreement of Kasia Redzisz and Bernard Blistène, both having full knowledge of the work and the opinion of the jury.”

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