Kristine Guzmán (Manila, Philippines, 1974) a graduate of B.S, Architecture from the University of Santo Tomás (Manila, 1996) with a Masters Degree in Restoration Architecture from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (1999). Since 1999 her profesional activity is centered on contemporary art: she was Coordinator of the Espacio Uno of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (1999-2001), of the exhibition Ofelias y Ulíses for the 49th Venice Biennale (2001) and various exhibition and editorial projects for MUSAC (2003-2009). From 2009-2010 she was General Coordinator of the Fundación Santander 2016 where she organized participatory cultural activities.
Currently she is General Coordinator of MUSAC, where she combines managerial tasks with the coordination and curatorship of exhibitions such as TYIN tegnestue: In Detail (MUSAC, 2015) and The Marvelous Real (MOT Tokyo, 2014 / MUSAC, 2013).
Thus in 1999 I arrived in Madrid to take a master’s degree in architectural restoration, after which I received another scholarship, this time for cultural management. The latter program, which I thought would trainme in restoration of contemporary painting, was a turning point in my life.
For some reason, my scholarship for the Restoration Department of the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía led me to the task of coordinating the Museum’s contemporary gallery. Espacio Uno, which was its most daring gallery The director was Rafael Doctor, a brilliant curator who had a keen eye for emerging artists. “Rafa” became my mentor. Mystified by my job at Espacio Uno, I spent my days in the Museum’s Restoration Department, learning conservation and restoration techniques. When I finished, I would return to Rafa’s office, to ask him things like “Why did you choose this artist?” “It’s a gut feeling,” he would answer.
I had never experienced that sensation, at least, not consciously, until one day he showed me a work of Sam Taylor-Wood (now known as Sam Taylor-Johnson). Her huge tableaus with photographs inspired by images from art history impressed me so much that I started to spend time in the library devouring books on contemporary art, and I went less and less to the Restoration Department. I asked Rafa to show me more works. We went to museums together, he lent me specialized journals, and videos on which I was to write fact sheets. My factsheets, which were not written in polished Spanish, were illegible, but Rafa insisted that I continue. He put his trust in me, and even gave me responsibility for the text of the leaflet for the Sam Taylor-Wood exhibition. As we were installing the exhibition, I realized that my training as an architect was very useful when working with the exhibition space and resolving technical problems. I discovered that I liked this new field.
Several years after the end of my internship grant, Rafael Doctor was appointed director of MUSAC, the Museum for Contemporary Art of Castile and León, which was under construction at the time. He immediately invited me to join his team of three people, which would launch the Museum.
Together with Rafael Doctor as director and Agustín Pérez Rubio as chief curator, we established a museum model that did not seek to replicate existing models of contemporary art museums. Instead of approaching contemporary art since the 20th-century avant-garde, like the Museo Reina Sofía, or since informalism and the conceptual art of the 1950s and 1960s, like the MACBA (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art), MUSAC chose to tackle the art that is being produced in our time – a period to which we belong, to which we could contribute and on which we could exert influence – and to meet the challenge raised by its location in a peripheral and conservative city, León.
We created a structure based on the traditional values of a historical museum, with a collection, exhibitions, side events and an educational program, but with the dynamism of an arts center. Together with an advisory board, we built a collection whose timeframe went from the 1980s to the present, the major milestones of which were the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the coming out of culture in Spain in 1992. At the same time we took into consideration the new techniques and fields that are now related to contemporary art. In this manner, the painter of centuries past is juxtaposed with video artists, movie directors, fashion designers or architects, who now have their place in a museum of contemporary art. To date, the MUSAC has 1,600 pieces; Spanish artists represent 46% of the collection.
We soon learned that collecting and preservation of collections are among the most complex but also the most important tasks in a museum. Collecting goes hand-in-hand with the Museum’s exhibition program, because it reflects the line of work that we are interested in: contemporary creation, promotion of young artists, mapping of recent historical movements, and interest in documentaries and archives. Moreover, exhibitions and the collection go together, so that some works produced specifically for exhibitions later become part of the collection, while the collection forms the basis for some exhibitions.
In this connection, we periodically organize temporary exhibitions of the collection within the museum. We take advantage of institutional relations that we have developed by promoting the program MUSAC Off, under which works from the collection travel to other venues. Through these exhibitions we aim to publicize Spanish artists in other countries. We have thus broadened the mission of the Museum, from the creation and preservation of its treasures within the four walls of our “white cube” to the diffusion of contemporary Spanish art, raising it to the same level and giving it the same projection as international art.
The economic crisis left a three-year gap in our collecting activities, but we are now resuming them, under the direction of Manuel Oliveira, at a more unhurried and discerning pace, in line with our current resources. Yet we remain conscious of our mission even as we continue to collect: the collection is public heritage, which we must make known to the public. More than €14 million has been invested in acquisitions. We capitalize on our collection through an active policy of loans; in this way the works act as “ambassadors” of the Museum.
Ten years into the existence of MUSAC, the team of three people has grown to include 15 people. My role as coordinator general includes not only administrative management of staff, the budget and the building but also a creative part, which enables me to curate and schedule exhibitions, some of which deal with architecture. I am proud of the fact that in spite of the economic challenges that we have had to face, MUSAC has become a steady force for social and cultural cohesion in León. We have succeeded in sustaining the active involvement of the local population and establishing its role not only as spectator but also as contributor to cultural programming. Our artistic ties with the community of Castile and León have been strengthened through cross-cutting and interdisciplinary activities and we have helped the public to acquire greater knowledge of contemporary art. The Museum has also contributed to the training of young artists and art professionals through its grants program.
Sixteen years have passed since I came to Spain. At the time I had other goals. I wanted to take care of historical heritage in the Philippines. Circumstances have taken me down a different road, which is equally beautiful and which has the added attraction of enabling me to put into practice my training as an architect, combined with the impulse that I now feel in my guts for art. And I like imparting such knowledge and emotions to the public, so that it can in turn see through other eyes, in the same way that I let myself get carried away by the work of Sam Taylor-Wood. After all, culture is a right, not a privilege, and it should be accessible to all.