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Appointment of director at Kanal was manipulated, says jury

22:40 24/06/2021

Following days of controversy and media attention, Kanal Center Pompidou has announced that Kasia Redzisz will be the new artistic director. The appointment of the art centre's first permanent director became engulfed in controversy this week as the board of the organisation had announced a co-directorship rather than following the advice of the independent jury.

The board of directors of Kanal announced earlier this week that there would be two artistic directors: Kasia Redzisz and Bernard Blistène (pictured above). Redzisz is in her 30s and is currently senior curator at the Tate Liverpool. Previous to that she was assistant curator at the Tate Modern in London and director of the Open Art Projects in her native Poland.

Blistène, 66, is the current director of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, which in 2023 is set to close for four years for renovations. The Paris landmark has been central to the launch of Kanal Centre Pompidou, loaning part of its collections and assisting with programming and financing.

A jury of six independent art experts and four members of the board was put together to assess the more than 30 applications for the position of artistic director of the Kanal Centre. One of those applications was from Blistène.

The jury had him on the shortlist but ultimately put forward Redzisz with a vote of six to four. Yves Goldstein, the current director of Kanal, was on the jury.

‘We made a clear choice’

To the surprise of the independent members of the jury, the board announced that Redzisz would share the position with Blistène. A group of people working in the local culture sector penned an open letter accusing Goldstein of manipulating the process to give half the job to his personal choice of director.

“The board of directors of Kanal chose unanimously for Kasia Redzisz and Bernard Blistène as the new artistic directors of Kanal,” reads the letter. “In contrast to this, the jury had made a clear and single choice. The duo directorship was not the idea of the jury but by Goldstein, who presented it to the board, which followed this suggestion.”

A member of the jury speaking to De Standaard said that the jury’s job was to choose one candidate, which they did. “She had more votes than the others,” said the jury member, who wished to remain anonymous. “We had already sensed that the leadership at Kanal was in favour of Blistène, and this was evident when the votes were cast. That same evening, unabashed conversations started about how the vote could be ‘corrected’.”

The jury is adamant that Redzisz is the right person for the job. “Her presentation was refreshing,” said the jury member. “She had a strong presence and a clear vision. She was the one who was most in touch with the innovative art project that Kanal is to become.”

The board of Kanal today announced that Kasia Redzisz would in fact be the one-and-only director, with Blistène also being given a role that still has to be defined.

Photo: ©Ant Clausen (left), ©Thibault Chapotot (right)


Written by Lisa Bradshaw