It's Sunday, October 7, and mid-morning in the rooms of the Center Pompidou of Málaga There are no more than a dozen people strolling before a permanent collection full of big names: Robert Delaunay, Pierre Huyghe, Vassily Kandinsky, Antonio Saura ... A couple of hours later, in the palace of Villalon, which occupies the Carmen Thyssen, the number of visitors who walk between Spanish and Andalusian painting of the nineteenth century is even lower. There is no one in the temporary exhibition dedicated to Francisco Iturrino. "People are reserved for free afternoon passes," argues one of the security guards. It compensates to wait to avoid paying the seven euros that the entrance costs. Two days later, Tuesday, in the Russian Museum, as much in the permanent one centered in Art of the Socialist Realism like the monographic one dedicated to Kazimir Malevich, could be counted some 20 people. Something more crowded is usually the CAC, Contemporary Art Center of Málaga, although nothing to do with the Picasso, opened in 2003 and an authentic jewel in the crown, around which has grown an offer that today adds 40 exhibition centers, with a priority attention in the franchises that represent the Pompidou and the Russians.
The bet of the City council that governs from the year 2000 Francisco de la Torre, of the PP, - that received last week a decoration of the Russian president Vladimir Putin by its work to strengthen the bows between both countries- has been convert to Malaga (600,000 inhabitants) in a cultural brand, something that he thinks has been achieved, although many local voices question it. The bet is evident in a budget of 32 million euros for museums, of which the public agency that groups the Museum Casa Natal de Picasso, the Russian Museum and the Center Pompidou takes more than 7.8 million; the CAC, 3.35 million; and the Carmen Thyssen Museum 2, 1 million. The benefits, according to the City Council, have an impact on the hospitality sector: the city broke its records in 2017 with more than 1.3 million passengers, more than 2.4 million overnight stays and an occupancy rate of 79%. Among the main motivations of tourists, 75% indicate that they do it for their cultural offer, the Consistory says.
However, this gamble of flashy museum based on large firms is being questioned by voices from the world of culture and residents of the city itself who have seen the increase in tourism has meant that the price of housing multiply of "everything for Picasso". Nor do they believe that the display of museum buildings has benefited the consumption of culture.
The conceptual artist Rogelio López Cuenca (Nerja, Malaga, Spain, 1959) decided a decade ago to leave the city and settle in the countryside, suffocated by a museum fever that, in his opinion, has meant the redesign of Malaga for cruise tourism or bachelor parties. Poet and visual artist, affirms that the collateral damages for the citizens have been incommensurable. He is the author of the project Surviving Picasso / Surviving Picasso, that studies the phenomenon unchained by what he calls the picassization of Malaga or the malagueñización of Picasso. "It is a tragedy (although it does not lack comic overtones) if we think about the damage caused in the local cultural fabric and in the collective imaginary about what contemporary art is: the side effects of this policy that have been devastating for a while now are devastating. 10 years build a brand image of cultural city based on paying advertising ... and what could be done (and that would be the obligation of the institutions) really with that money. "
Kike España (Málaga, 1988) is an architect and activist spokesperson for La Casa Invisible, an alternative center located in the vicinity of Carmen Thyssen Square. It was occupied in March 2007 and, since then, the offer of cultural and social activities of all kinds has gone hand in hand with a tense relationship with the owners of the property: the City Council. "This project arose in response to the exclusion of all those who had no place to create. Between about 40 people, linked in some way to 15 M, we assemble the Union of Invisible Creators and we occupy this space. It coincided with the moment when the Malaga Film Festival put aside the local to become another festival. Everything was official culture. There was not even a slit through which to breathe with other airs. Everyone who wants to create or learn has a place here. " The beautiful courtyard of the building is the central axis. Inside, in the rooms not threatened by sinking danger, there are meetings, readings, theater, documentaries, painting and much debate. La Invisible has had the active support of personalities such as the playwright Darío Fo, the writer and journalist Naomi Klein, the philosopher Santiago López Petit, the urban planner Jordi Borja, the filmmaker Fernando León de Aranoa, the essayist Amador Fernández-Savaterel actor Óscar Jaenada , the musicians Kiko Veneno and Nacho Vegas or the director of the Reina Sofía Museum Manuel Borja-Villel.
But the survival of The Invisible House is always hanging by a thread. With the rehabilitation project completed and the guarantees for the credit obtained, they live expectantly waiting to see what happens with their eviction file. Currently, they are without water and users of the center have to bring bottles or coffee thermos from home. The mayor explains that the cut is due to the non-payment of bills worth 4,000 euros. When he is reminded that it is a smaller amount than what the franchise museums obtain, the councilor replies: "The users of the Invisible House are occupiers and the decision about their future is not taken. But the invitation they made to talk to the Grapo Express or show a gallows with the Spanish flag does not help. "
The spokesman for La Casa Invisible believes that the speculative interests behind the conversion of Malaga into a city of museums are its great threat. "When we arrived, this part of the center was impoverished and forgotten by everyone. The rents were about 100 euros and now they go over 800, so that people have to go to the outskirts. Málaga needs alternative spaces for its artists. Where would Picasso expose if he were a young and unknown artist? " The truth is that this unknown young Picasso would have few options. These days closes, after 34 years of life, Cartel, the penultimate art gallery that survived in the city. He does so with an exhibition dedicated to Diego Santos (Malaga, 1953), a well-known artist from Malaga who recognizes that the proliferation of museums has not cheered the local art market.
Manuel Ortega Arteaga, owner of Cartel, explains that the business is unsustainable; 21% VAT on each piece sold has been the tip. "The crisis meant that many collectors resorted to auctions to sell the work of living artists for a much lower price than we considered. There's no point in continuing. " The emergence of museums has not benefited or harmed gallery owners, according to Ortega. "Most of the visits arrive on a cruise. They go down, visit some and return to the ship. The rest do not interest them. "
For mayor Francisco de la Torre, the absence of galleries does not have to be a drama for new or emerging artists. "The CAC buys for its permanent collection and exposes not so well known names that are then required in international spaces. I put for example José Luis Puche or Javier Calleja. Both have exhibited in our museums and then they have taken the international leap. Malaga is a cultural brand that nobody doubts. "
In the CAC, its director since 2003, Fernando Francés, says that, although it is obliged by contract to offer nine annual exhibitions, has widened that number to include local creators. "Of the 170 that we have programmed, 35 have been for local artists". And he adds that in the permanent collection formed by 400 pieces, "150 are signed by artists from the environment." Pending knowing the conditions of the contest that would allow him to renew the position, he clarifies that he has 150,000 euros per year for purchases he makes, in the 99% of the cases, to gallerists. "In theory I have a budget of 3.3 million euros, but that includes VAT, staff payment and other expenses that museums like Pompidou do not have. but they are not right, we are an example for Europe. "
Javier Calleja (Málaga, 1971), an artist who was able to show his work at the CAC in 2009, believes that the multiplication of museums benefits them, among other things, because the increase in tourism has made them enjoy transport infrastructures that other cities They can not be allowed. It also finds it profitable that each major inauguration makes it possible for Malaga galleries and international artists to move to Malaga who would not otherwise look at the city. "Museums and us, emerging artists, may be parallel worlds. But I prefer a museum theme park to a Disneyland. "