In an unconventional move, Kanal, a Centre Pompidou outpost in Brussels that opened in 2018, has named not one but two new artistic directors: Kasia Redzisz and Bernard Blistène. But the voting process that led to the appointments has been met with allegations of “offensive sexism” by artists based in Belgium and France, who claim that Redzisz, a senior curator at Tate Liverpool, is qualified enough to hold the position on her own without Blistène, currently the outgoing director of the Pompidou in Paris, by her side.
Redzisz joined Tate Modern in London in 2010, and served as an assistant curator before joining Tate Liverpool as senior curator in 2014. She has also previously been a curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, and from 2008 to 2015, she directed Open Art Projects, an internationally renowned organization in Poland.
Blistène has worked at Centre Pompidou in Paris for the past three decades. Since 2013, he has been director of the museum. He is expected to leave his post there on June 28, the same day that the museum’s president, Serge Lasvignes, will also step down. (Their successors have not yet been named.)
In a statement, Michèle Sioen, president of the Kanal Foundation, called the two-person appointment “the perfect synthesis for Kanal: a fresh outlook and a new multidisciplinary artistic sensibility for the long term, and the guarantee of continuing what has already been successfully undertaken to build this 21st century museum hand in hand with the Center Pompidou until 2027.” Redzisz and Blistène are scheduled to take up their posts in Brussels after the summer.
The French-language Belgian publication L’Echo reported that six of the jury’s 10 members voted in favor of Redzisz’s appointment. The jury included Sioen as well as other notable international figures such as Iwona Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Gallery in London, and Manuel Borja-Villel, director of the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid. According to L’Echo, it was Yves Goldstein, director of Kanal, who proposed the installment of Blistène in addition, so that he and Redzisz would serve as co-artistic directors.
The signatories of an open letter circulated this week questioned the “legitimacy” of the vote and called for an inquiry by the Brussels city government into the voting process. Among them were Anne Pontégnie, curator-at-large at Le Consortium in Dijon, France; Niels Van Tomme, director of the ARGOS Centre for Audiovisual Arts; and artists Sara Deraedt, Lili Reynaud-Dewar, and Lucy McKenzie.
The open letter says Redzisz is a “competent and experienced woman and there is not the slightest doubt that she would not be perfectly capable of doing this job ON HER OWN. Teaming her up with an older man is an offensive act of sexism and a blatant insult to her expertise and capacities.”
A representative for Kanal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.