An International Cultural Organization Says Mexico’s Museum Leaders Are Afraid to Speak the Truth About Their Dire Financial Straits

Some museums’ budgets have been cut by more than 75 percent, the group says.

A visitor taking a photograph of the Stone of the Sun or Aztec Calendar as it is also known during a reopening ceremony at Museo Nacional de Antropologia on November 11, 2020 in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo by Clasos/Getty Images.
A visitor taking a photograph of the Stone of the Sun or Aztec Calendar as it is also known during a reopening ceremony at Museo Nacional de Antropologia on November 11, 2020 in Mexico City, Mexico. Photo by Clasos/Getty Images.

Amid blows to museum budgets worldwide, Mexican state museums are particularly vulnerable, according to the Museum Watch Committee of the International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern Art.

The organization, which has sent a statement to the country’s culture secretary, Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, says the situation is dire—and that Mexican museum leaders are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution. Several museums contacted by Artnet News did not reply, or said that their directors were not available.

The letter, dated December 10, is signed by Mami Kataoka, director of Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum.

Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, is dotted with an enviable network of state and university museums, including the imposing new National Museum of Anthropology, the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, and the Museum of the City of Mexico. The city alone has 16 museums, according to the committee’s letter, with the rest of the country boasting another 40.

The committee claims that under Mexican president Manuel Lopez Obrador, austerity measures began in May 2019 have led to a 50 percent cut in state funding for exhibition programs. In April 2020, budget caps of 75 percent of promised totals were placed on museums overseen by Mexico’s National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature.

Regional museums have seen their budgets cut by more than 75 percent, says the committee, which adds that opportunities for earned income have been drastically reduced in recent months.

Meanwhile, culture workers have gone on strike to demand better benefits. Some are also owed a month’s pay, according to El País. Their contracts end at the end of the year, meaning they could be out of work in just a few short weeks. One museum worker told the paper that she hadn’t been paid since March, despite working 10-hour days.

Amid all this, according to the committee, some $175 million has been allocated to the development of a cultural complex in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Forest.


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