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Spanish Museum Director Who Gave Hairdresser a Solo Show Under Investigation

The interior of the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (photo by lxember/Instagram)
The interior of the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (photo by @lxember/Instagram)

The Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (IVAM), the main modern and contemporary art museum in Spain’s third city, grossly inflated its attendance figures, overpaid for acquisitions, and made a number of other suspicious moves during the 10-year tenure of its former director, Consuelo Ciscar. The misdeeds committed by the museum, which is funded by Valencia’s regional government, were uncovered by a city-ordered audit, according to the Independent. The findings have led to a court investigation into Ciscar’s actions as museum director, El Mundo reported.

Former Institut Valencià d'Art Modern director Consuelo Ciscar (at left) speaking with politician Rita Barberá (at right) during the opening of 'Happy Little Girls' at IVAM in 2013. (photo by cri7cri7/Instagram)
Former Institut Valencià d’Art Modern Director Consuelo Ciscar (at left) speaking with politician Rita Barberá (at right) during the opening of ‘Happy (little) girls‘ at IVAM in 2013 (photo by @cri7cri7/Instagram) (click to enlarge)

The audit’s most startling finding is that the museum repeatedly exaggerated the number of visitors it received, and not just by a few thousand a year. While IVAM claimed that 1,163,419 million people passed through its doors in 2013 — making it the 52nd most popular museum in the world, according to that year’s Art Newspaper attendance rankings — the audit found that only 85,000 people actually did. This 14-fold exaggeration of IVAM’s attendance figures is similar to the number of visitors the museum reported in 2012 and 2011. In the face of countless criticisms during her tenure, Ciscar touted the supposed boom in attendance as proof of her successful leadership.

The audit not only revealed the falsity of Ciscar’s alleged attendance boosting, but also highlighted a range of other suspect practices from her time at the helm of IVAM, like giving a solo show to local hairdresser Tono Sanmartin; exhibiting works by her son, the sculptor Rablaci; and routinely overpaying for artworks when making acquisitions, sometimes by as much as 1,500%. For instance, the museum paid €32,000 (~$35,800) for a work by the Portuguese artist Julio Cuaresma that had been valued at just €2,000 (~$2,200), according to El Pais. In another suspicious acquisition cited in the audit, IVAM bought 63 photographs for €442,280 (~$495,000) — not a bad price until you consider that they were purchased from Gao Ping, a man who was later arrested for allegedly being the head of an organized crime ring that laundered between €800 million and €1.2 billion.

The exterior of the Institut Valencià d'Art Modern (photo by adventuro/Instagram)
The exterior of the Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (photo by @adventuro/Instagram)

Though Ciscar claimed she was stepping down for “personal reasons” when she left the museum in April 2014, she was in fact pushed out by the new regional premier, Alberto Fabra, who launched an international search to find her successor (José Miguel García Cortés was appointed last August). At the time Ciscar’s husband, Rafael Blasco, a former regional deputy for the center-right Popular Party, was on trial for funneling some €6 million (~$6.7 million) from a government fund to provide aid to developing countries. He’s now serving an eight-year prison sentence, and his party, long dominant in Valencià, lost last year’s municipal elections to a coalition of leftist, socialist, and environmentalist parties. The city’s new mayor, Joan Ribo, has made ridding municipal and regional government of corruption one of his top priorities.

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