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Sunday, November 20, 2011

HONEYMOON ENDS FOR ‘EL NIEMEYER”


Honeymoon ends for “El Niemeyer”
Arts centre closes as its board and politicians fall out

By Cristina Carrillo De Albornoz. From Museums, Issue 229, November 2011
Published online: 02 November 2011

AVILÉS. Only nine months after its official opening, the prestigious, €45m Centro Cultural Internacional Oscar Niemeyer in Avilés, northern Spain, was forced to close last month, following a row between regional politicians and the arts centre’s board of trustees. Affectionately known as “El Niemeyer”, the centre was designed by the veteran Brazilian architect, after whom it is named, in his signature style (The Art Newspaper, November 2010, pp42-43). In an open letter, Niemeyer (aged 103) expressed his sadness at the political battle raging over the centre, and his solidarity with its director, Natalio Grueso.

Regime change

The regional government of Asturias provided the funds to build the centre and pledged 20% towards its annual budget. Following elections in May, the new president of the region, Alvarez Cascos, commissioned a report into the centre’s finances. Before the audit was completed, his colleague, the region’s new head of culture, Emilio Marcos Vallaure, reported that “serious financial irregularities” had been identified, alleging that invoices for various expenses, such as drinks and cigarettes, were missing.

Grueso rejected the allegations, saying that expenses were justified, criticised the announcement before the audit was made public, and called the accusations “irresponsible and nonsense”. José Luis Rebollo, the secretary and lawyer of the Fundación Niemeyer, which manages the centre, has said that the foundation will take legal action against the regional government.

While the stand-off continues, 4,000-strong crowds of demonstrators have expressed their support for the centre on every last Sunday of the month since late September.


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