A former director of a Spanish art museum has become the first foreigner to be shortlisted to direct South Korea's National Museum of Contemporary Art, sources said Monday.
Bartomeu Mari is one of three finalists for the position, the sources said. His identity has been under wraps since Oct. 13 when South Korea's culture minister revealed that a foreigner had made the shortlist.
Mari directed the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art from 2008 to 2015 and currently serves as the president of the International Committee of Museums and Collections of Modern Art.
He has cultivated special ties with the South Korean art community, visiting Gwangju, South Jeolla Province, last year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Gwangju Biennale.
In 2011, he was on the jury for the Hermes Foundation Missulsang, which distinguishes promising Korean artists.
A year prior to that, he allowed NMCA to exhibit some of Barcelona's artifacts to commemorate 60 years of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Spain.
The announcement by the culture minister earlier this month has caused a firestorm of debate, however, with one side voicing concerns that a foreign director may lack the knowledge of Korean art to efficiently run the organization. Proponents of diversity, on the other hand, have supported hiring a foreign director since they are less likely to be influenced by school connections.
A total of 22 people, including 12 foreigners, applied for the job, which is among the most prestigious art positions in South Korea.
The post has been vacant since late last year when Jeong Hyeong-min was removed from the post over allegations of illegal hiring practices. (Yonhap)