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BUENOS AIRES — Within three days of his nomination as president of arteBA, Argentina’s most important and longest-running modern and contemporary art fair, Juan Carlos Lynch was ousted from this honorary position. And an online feminist wave was responsible for it.
In 2021, arteBA celebrates its 30th anniversary. The art fair started in 1991 with the support of Buenos Aires’s city government. Jacobo Fiterman, one of the founders, not only envisioned a fair, but a network to enable Argentine art to flourish and have a sustainable market. He renounced from the advisory board of his beloved arteBA in the midst of last week’s storm, just before the president and the vice president had to step down.
ArteBA did grow into something much bigger than just an art fair. The core remains the three-day event which receives around 100,000 visitors, showing and selling modern masters aside exciting new art and stimulating international museum acquisitions. Yet, over the years, the buzzing fair has also turned into a central player within the arts scene. It organizes programs throughout the year, was one of the partners of Art Basel Cities: Buenos Aires, and has even organized other contemporary ‘off’ art fairs. With this power comes responsibilities.
In 2018, arteBA invited the feminist artist collective Nosotras Proponemos to present at the fair, where they named the numerous female artists underrepresented in the Argentine art world. The group, which has been striving for equal pay and representation for women in the arts, emerged as women in Argentina started to speak up against gender inequality and violence, amidst the startling rise of femicides. One year later, in 2019, ArteBA welcomed its first female president, Amalia Amoedo, and the 2019 arteBA magazine issue exclusively focused on women in the arts. It seemed like arteBA was accompanying the political effort for gender parity.
And then two weeks ago, Amoedo stepped down, citing her move to Uruguay as the reason. She was replaced by Juan Carlos Lynch, a CEO of NEWlink, a PR company. Other than being a board member of Buenos Aires’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA) as of this January, Lynch was unfamiliar to those in the art scene.
“Not knowing who he was,” writer and editor Estefanía Papescu told Hyperallergic, “I started looking up his Instagram, and I just couldn’t believe his misogynist, sexist publications. Stupefied and indignant I started taking screenshots impulsively and posted them on my Facebook page.”
Lynch’s social media account was filled with images of breasts and political jokes. One cleavage shot was accompanied by the caption, “looking at breasts make men live longer.” Upon Donald Trump’s political victory, Lynch shared that “a billionaire would be entering public housing formerly occupied by a black family.” “Discussing with a woman,” reads another post, “is like being attacked by a bear. The best thing to do is act dead and hope she gets bored and leaves.” Or: “Every guy thinks that every girl’s dream is to find the perfect guy. Bullshit! Every girl’s dream is to eat without getting fat.” A T-shirt worn by a big person read: “I survived anorexia.” And on and on. All of the images have now been erased and Lynch’s account has been put on private.
The next day, Papescu contacted Nosotras Proponemos. The collective decided to draft a statement against Lynch’s nomination, which quickly went viral:
As the artistic feminist community we repudiate the assignation of the new president of arteBA foundation for his posts on social media, which contain a high level of sexism, misogyny, racism, and fat-shaming. His publications and assignation are signs of regression in relation to our fight against violence and do not represent the community we are or desire to be. We urge the board of the foundation to make Juan Carlos Lynch resign.
Directors of the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art (MAMBA), Victoria Noorthoorn, and the Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires (MALBA), Gabriela Rangel, followed suit in supporting the artists’ statement and commented on their respective personal Facebook pages. Noorthoorn wrote that someone in such a position should be “inclusive and respectful.” Rangel said, “The time to nominate a candidate in key positions, whether public or private, in a hurry, is over. It is unthinkable to choose someone for an important role in the arts when there are problems of legitimacy and consensus, even with the best intentions, one can’t ignore the advances made in society on civil rights, sexual diversity and gender.”
Meridiano, the Argentine Chamber of Contemporary Art Galleries representing 48 Argentine galleries, wrote the foundation asking to retract its future seat in arteBA’s board “until your values are matched with concrete proposals and actions, reflecting the real needs of the art system.” Pressure became too high for arteBA, and Lynch and his vice president stepped down on Monday, August 17.
Lynch, who has not responded to Hyperallergic’s requests for comment, did not issue any public statement on the matter. He was interviewed for an article in La Nación, in which he says that his Instagram posts “in other moments or different contexts would have been considered a joke or irony, but I should not have published them as they do not represent my worldview, and because I offended some people.” He added to La Nación: “As a father of four daughters, I strongly believe in the need to end discrimination against women. I believe we have to fight objectivation and prevent and fight against violence against women.”
In a public statement, arteBA said the choice to remove Lynch was made to make “more appropriate future choices.” When talking to Hyperallergic, the organization said they are in a phase of “reflection and introspection” and are organizing talks with the artistic community. And they promise to listen. ArteBA can no longer ignore the art world it stands for.