No. 147 – September 2007
Luis F. Benedit is an architect and an artist. He has been a member of the Board of Directors of the National Museum of Fine Arts for two years. He has a long career in cultural management and in this interview he tells us about his experience in cultural policy.
ARTE AL DIA: What is your position at the National Museum of Fine Arts?
LUIS F. BENEDIT: I am part of the Advisory Committee. Américo Castilla is the President, and Andrea Giunta, Adriana Rosenberg. Alejandro Puente and myself are part of the committee.
AAD: When was it created and why?
LFB: At the beginning there was an advisory commission made up of Alejandro Puente and Adriana Rosenberg, which had the purpose of evaluating offers of donations. That was while Alberto Belluci was there, as Director. When he resigned (he could no longer be in charge of the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Decorative Arts Museum) the Ministry of Culture appointed an advisory commission in charge of the Museum’s management until a call was made for a new director.
AAD: What was the first action you took?
LFB: To work to get the law regarding the selection of a new director passed. It has finally come out, and the documents are being prepared.
AAD: As a commission, did you organize exhibitions?
LFB: Yes, first we had to take care of the exhibitions that were already promised and evaluate those that were in the pipeline. Then we began to design new exhibitions. We held exhibitions by Ernesto Deira, Ricardo Garabito, Los Modernos, and one by Pintores Viajeros.
AAD: What is the profile that the director of the National Museum should have?
LFB: The profile of the Director is going to be a businessman, related to the field of art. A person over 50 who has solved his economic situation and who wants to work in a cultural activity. The director who will come is chosen by competition with an international jury. At the same time, two directors will have to be chosen, one artistic and one administrative.
AAD: A very different profile from the one traditionally sought in this position.
LFB: Yes, it used to be someone directly related to the art world (critic, curator, etc.). Today he can be a collector with a business profile, but he has to be someone who understands finance. Because today the job of the directors of the great museums is to obtain financial resources.
AAD: Did you work in cultural management at the Fondo Nacional de las Artes (National Arts Fund)?
LFB: Yes, during the presidency of Amalita Fortabat. I was part of the board of directors in the artistic sector, together with musicians and writers.
AAD: How did that management work out?
LFB: For me, Amalia’s management was excellent. When she took over, the Fund was in the red and when she left she left behind a few million dollars, bought Victoria Ocampo’s house as her headquarters, a lot of things.
One of the criticisms was that little was done for the people of the interior of the country, that the National Arts Fund was elitist, which is not true. Sixty percent of the resources went to artists from the interior of the country.
ADD: What was your time at the Antorchas Foundation like?
LFB: We did the Barracas Workshop, together with Pablo Suarez, at the time when Américo Castilla was the artistic director. It seemed to me that for artists who work with installations and sculptors there was no place and they are really the ones who are most deprived, and those who need it most, because production is very expensive. I remember that there was an artist who had made some boxes that had to be made of lead. Since he had no money, he made them out of cardboard painted with silver, so when there was a wind, the boxes moved around. Well, to reverse this, the Taller de Barracas was created, which provided financing and training. We helped them manage exhibitions and scholarships for the artists who passed through there.
AAD: What do you think of the cultural management carried out by artists?
LFB: No one understands an artist better than another artist, always within an institutional framework. That used to happen at Antorchas. I don’t believe in management done exclusively by artists, there will be exceptions. But that’s not the artist’s function. I believe that all the pieces of the puzzle are necessary. Artists, dealers, collectors, critics.
AAD: Regarding issues related to cultural policy, what is missing in Argentina?
LFB: A cultural project is missing, and that includes money. The amounts we spend on culture are ridiculously low.
AAD: You represented Argentina at the Venice Biennial in 1970. What was the panorama like at that time?
LFB: I think things have improved in recent years. At the time I went to the Venice Biennial everything was more disorganized, things were done at the last minute. Argentina did not have a pavilion so I exhibited the “Biotron” in the Finnish pavilion that was on loan. It was a wooden pavilion designed by architect Alvar Aalto, located near the entrance to the Biennial. I understand that it was offered to the Argentine government for U$S 30,000 and was not purchased, and to this day we still have no pavilion of our own at the Venice Biennale.
Luis F. Benedit was born in Buenos Aires in 1937. He is an architect and self-taught artist.
1961: 1st individual exhibition, Lirolay gallery.
1963: Graduated as an architect, traveled to Spain to specialize in popular architecture, where he lived for two years.
1967: Granted by the Italian government, he studied landscape architecture in Rome.
1968-69 He settled in Buenos Aires, where he lives now. He won the Di Tella Prize which consisted of a retrospective exhibition at the National Museum of Fine Arts (1996).
Creator of the Barracas Workshop with Pablo Suáez, financed by the Antorchas Foundation. (1994-1997). He was a member of the board of directors of the Fondo Nacional de las Artes. Currently he is part of the Board of Directors in charge of the National Museum of Fine Arts.
BY LAURA BATKIS