The Tudor blockbuster: why Holbein still mesmerises 500 years on
May 19, 2024
How an artist and curator duo are transforming Addis Ababa with their eco-driven projects
May 19, 2024
The Tudor blockbuster: why Holbein still mesmerises 500 years on
May 19, 2024
How an artist and curator duo are transforming Addis Ababa with their eco-driven projects
May 19, 2024

The administration of the Argentine president, Javier Milei, plans to cut between 15% and 20% of the public workforce in the coming months as part of its efforts to stabilise the country’s fiscal crisis and eliminate corruption, with Milei claiming that the State is a “criminal organisation” that must be reduced to a minimum. The president has been following through on this electoral promise since he took office in December of last year—his first decree as president targeted the Argentine ministry of culture, which has now been dissolved into other departments.

One museum that has been directly impacted so far is the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba). A spokesperson for the museum tells The Art Newspaper that the Milei government’s decision to defund the Instituto Nacional de Cine y Artes Audiovisuales (INCAA) will negatively affect its cinema programme, Malba Cine, through which it screens four films each month in collaboration with INCAA.

It puts at risk the continuity of all the spaces that screen Argentine films

Fernando Peña, director, Malba Cine

“The current paralysis of the INCAA decided by the current administration puts at risk the continuity of all the spaces that screen Argentine films,” says Fernando M. Peña, a researcher and archivist, and the director of Malba Cine. “In the case of Malba, an important percentage of our programme consists of Argentine premieres, which indeed need adequate diffusion spaces. For 20 years we have been premiering between two or four feature films per month. This continuity, which over time has built up an audience, will be compromised if this situation persists.” The number of films produced per year with federal support is expected to drop drastically from the current average of around 200 films.

Regarding the defunding of INCAA, which sent shockwaves through the Argentine and global cinema communities, the Argentine human capital ministry issued a public notice stating that the “time when film festivals were financed with the hunger of thousands of children is over”. The government has said that more cuts should be expected in the coming months. “Our commitment to a zero budget deficit is non-negotiable,” the notice states.

In March, the administration also ordered the dismissal of 120 staff members of the Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno (BNMM), the central branch of Argentina’s national library. The dismissed workers were informed via email that their contracts would not be renewed. The BNMM previously had 900 staff members across three branches of the institution. In a statement, it said that there were “no workers left”, and that the “working class as a whole is undergoing a brutal adjustment that involves the overwhelming transfer of income to the benefit of business minorities”.

In the aftermath of the decision to dismiss the staff, more than 2,200 individuals signed an open letter addressed to Susana Soto Pérez, the director of the institution, asking for the reinstatement of one particular worker, the professor and researcher Roberto Casazza, who had been at the institution for nearly three decades and is “one of the greatest Latin American references in bibliographies from the 15th to 18th centuries”, the letter states.

Arts education “a waste of time”

Casazza said he was “unaware of the meanderings and legal obstacles on these matters”, but confident that the decision was a “flagrant failure of the State, as it also threatens their own interests”. If half the workers who were dismissed sought legal action, it would be “much more expensive for the State than paying salaries”, he added in an interview with the newspaper Página 12.

Milei, a former economist and television panellist, has described himself as an “anarcho-capitalist”. He took office in December 2023, just as inflation in Argentina reached 140% and as nearly 50% of the population fell below the poverty line. During his electoral campaign, Milei called arts education a “waste of time”, universities “centres of ideological indoctrination” and scientific research a “luxury that the country cannot afford”.

Milei’s first decree as president was to dismantle the Argentine ministry of culture, dissolving it into other sectors. His actions and approach to culture have striking parallels to those of Brazil’s former far-right president Jair Bolsonaro, who also viewed cultural tax incentives as corrupt and extinguished the Brazilian ministry of culture on his first day in office in 2019, seeking to reduce cultural funding through a series of severe budget cuts (his successor, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, reinstated the ministry when he took office last year).

It remains to be seen how Milei’s austerity measures will impact other Argentine museums and institutions, most of which declined or did not respond to inquiries for this article. Some of the country’s most prominent art institutions, like the Museum of Contemporary Art in Buenos Aires (Macba), are privately funded or receive funds primarily from municipal rather than federal coffers.

First appeared on…

Comments are closed.