Scandalous Baroness Seeks New Museum Director: Resignations Shake the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum's Malaga Satellite

Scandalous Baroness Seeks New Museum Director: Resignations Shake the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum's Malaga Satellite
Málaga's new Carmen Thyssen Museum — the satellite branch of Madrid's 19-year-old Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum — was launched just three weeks ago at a bash where actor Antonio Banderas served as master of ceremonies, and where Baronness Carmen Thyssen effused that she was "in love" with both the new institution and the town. Now the museum is already embroiled in controversy, with director María López and board member Tomás Llorens — a former chief curator of the Madrid museum — having bowed out, complaining of meddlesome interference by the baroness and the Málaga mayor in their artistic affairs.

The Andalusian outpost of the Madrid museum was created to house 230 19th-century works, including pieces by Sorolla, Fortuny, Romero de Torres, and De Haes, that belong to the baroness, a former beauty queen who assumed ownership of her husband Baron Hans Heinrich von Thyssen-Bornemisza's collection after his death in 2002. According to the Independent, Baroness Thyssen has loaned the art, free of charge, to be shown in the 16th-century Palacio de Villalon for at least 15 years. But the departure of the museum's key players is proving a serious stumbling block.

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In his letter of resignation, Llorens stated that the baroness and mayor were guilty of "relegating historical and artistic questions to a secondary plane," noting that their behavior had instigated a "serious internal conflict" at the institution. The tipping point came when the two assigned Javier Ferrer, the former general coordinator at Málaga's city hall and the mayor's longtime right-hand man, to the post of managing director of the new museum, the Independent reports.

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"This managerial position was appointed privately and without a selection process to a person who lacks experience in the management of either museums or artistic institutions, and whose professional occupation in recent years has been exclusively political," Llorens wrote in his resignation. Meanwhile, López said that she resigned "out of dignity" — though the baroness contends that it was really because the board member was unable to readjust to life in Málaga.

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"In any case, the collection is mine, and I do with it what I want," the baroness told the newspaper El País. "I am president of the board and the mayor is the vice president. Excuses aren't necessary. There are tons of great professionals in this country who will want to come to the museum."

And, of course, the unruffled Baroness Thyssen, fifth wife of the late baron, is no novice when it comes to scandal. For instance, the deal she and her husband brokered with the Spanish government to create their Madrid museum led to years of feuding with the baron's children; she demanded DNA testing to verify the paternity of one of her grandchildren; and, as the Independent reminds readers, she once even bound herself to a tree when the foliage along the boulevard outside of her Madrid museum was threatened by the city.