NEW YORK — El Museo del Barrio has appointed Rodrigo Moura, formerly the adjunct curator of Brazilian art at the São Paulo Museum of Art, as its chief curator.
Patrick Charpenel, the executive director of the museum, said Moura’s community-driven, socially-oriented vision “totally aligns” with El Museo’s values and mission.
An institution like El Museo “obviously is very sensitive about diversity, very sensitive about immigration, very sensitive about marginality,” Charpenel said. He added that those issues are at the heart of Moura’s work.
Before his time at the São Paulo Museum of Art, Moura spent 12 years at the Inhotim Institute, an outdoor contemporary art museum in central Brazil, where he served as curator and artistic director. He joins El Museo as it works to restructure and expand its curatorial staff after facing several setbacks.
Years ago, the department consisted of nearly 10 employees, Charpenel said. But after financial problems forced staff cuts and reduced operating hours, that number dwindled to one.
When Charpenel was hired in late 2017, he had become El Museo’s fourth leader in seven years. And he was tasked with maintaining the museum’s relevance during a 10-month renovation that wrapped up last September.
In addition to multiple personnel changes, El Museo has faced somewhat of an identity crisis. The museum was founded in 1969 by a group of Puerto Rican educators, artists and activists in East Harlem. After relocating to its current space on Fifth Avenue at 104th Street in 1977, the question arose: Should El Museo remain a community-based institution for the Barrio or should it broaden its reach to represent Latino and Latin American art?
“I think it has to reflect, in a very large and diverse way, the connections with the different Latinx communities, the connection with the Puerto Rican community and the connection also with Latin America,” Charpenel said. (Latinx is a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina.)
That’s why, he added, “we’re in the process of restructuring and growing.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.