galati1(Photo source) BREAKING NEWS: More from Romania's culture scene that has left me so outraged I am not sure to be coherent... Well, here it is:

The first Romanian contemporary art museum in the country, The Visual Art Museum in Galati, IS DEFINITIVELY CLOSING ITS DOORS. Why? Because the Archbishopric of the Lower Danube has repossessed the Bishopric Palace which housed the museum, and has had them evicted. That's why.

The museum’s heritage section exhibited Romanian art from the second half of the 19th century (Theodor Aman, Nicolae Grigorescu, Octav Bancila, Theodor Pallady, George Petrascu, Dimitrescu Stefan Nicolae Tonitza, Camil Ressu, Lucian Grigorescu...), avant-garde art from the 20th century (Brauner, MH Maxy, Mattis-Teutsch, Marcel Iancu, Irina Codreanu, Milita Petrascu...) and artists known for having abridged the two periods (Corneliu Baba, Alexandru Ciucurencu, Ion Tuculescu, Henri H. Catargi, Dumitru Ghiata, Rudolf Schweitzer-Cumpana...).

According to a reliable source who has been a museographer for the last 30 years in Galati, the museum's heritage collection of contemporary paintings and sculptures is being moved to a disused factory, while their permanent exhibition will be on the ground floor of a communist-era block of flats - all this by order of the local Galati County Council (Consiliu Judetean).

The Museum of Visual Arts comes under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture and the Galati County Council. "We are going to pay rent and operate from the ground floor of a block of flats," said the museographer.

And that's not all. Oh no. There is even BIGGER news of the day, should that not be enough for you: The former residence of the museum is now being transformed into - wait for it - a future MUSEUM OF SPIRITUALITY, CULTURE AND OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH OF THE LOWER DANUBE. I'm sorry that technology doesn't allow me to put that in flashing lights with a hurdy-gurdy in the background for full effect. How has it been funded, I expect you're wondering? With 3.5 million euros of EU bani, PLUS funds from the Ministry of Culture. Very nice, too. They also say they have approved plans for the construction of a NEW contemporary art museum - BUT there is no financing for it. What a surprise. They have a location, but NO MONEY.

Good for the Church who repossesses its building, gets funds for a museum which will blend culture and spirituality together with mainstream orthodoxy aaaaand all that with EU and government money.

According to the museographer, they are living a real nightmare in Galati... I'm not surprised.

"We were the only art museum in the country to be a mirror for the evolution of Romanian contemporary art from the inter-war period to the present day," he said.

Should you wish to visit the museum in its old location, they are still on one floor of the Bishopric Palace, says the museum's director, historian Dan Nanu Basarab. You'd better hurry, because in a month's time, they will open on the ground floor of that block of flats in a rather unsavoury area.

Their major problem is not even their new 'home'. It is that the museum's collection will be housed in air-conditioned warehouses (in the disused factory, I guess) some distance from the new 'location'. To add insult to injury, they have an approved plan for a new and modern museum, as mentioned above, which would be fairly well situated - but the plan is blocked. From an administrative point of view, the museum is under the Galati County Council, but the financial decisions are not made in Galati or Bucharest. They are made in northern Suceava!!! According to my source, the construction plans depend on the Romania-Moldova-Ukraine regional development axis, and there, financing is blocked. Aoleu. I think I need more coffee...

There's more news - none of it particularly nourishing.

oradea museum(Photo source) Romania's fifth largest museum of collections, Muzeul Tarii Crisurilor in Oradea, is to move to army barracks. Yes, you read that right. According to the director, art historian Aurel Chiriac, the beautiful Baroque Palace (a landmark in Oradea) in which the museum was located has been returned to the Roman Catholic Church.

"The museums are not protected by anybody," said Mr Chiriac. "They have been abandoned by the state authorities."

The barracks are large enough for the encyclopaedic collections - more than 400,000 pieces of ethnography, archaeology, history, and Mr Chiriac considers they were lucky to find it.

More evictions: In Brasov, the director of the Museum of Ethnography, Ligia Fulga, has started a petition - they, along with the city's Art Museum, were thrown out after the building was returned to the Evangelical Church (expropriated by the communists). The future of the Art Museum in Cluj is also uncertain since the Banffy Palace that housed it has been given back to its rightful owners - the Banffy family (once again following expropriation). The museum has been allotted five years to find an alternative location, in accordance with the law. The case of the museum in Cluj has fared a great deal better than Galati. Why? Because the decision for Cluj was made in Cluj, whereas the decision for Galati must be made, as previously explained, in... Suceava. Pas de foto... The director of the Art Museum in Cluj, Călin Stegerean, says however, that there is NO MONEY for a new museum. Sound familiar?

muzeul-de-arta-brasov-300x300(Photo source: Brasov's Museums of Art and Ethnography) The issue here is not about the return of church/personal property. It is that the state authorities do not protect the museums when it happens, although the collections are state heritage.

Anyone who wrote to me saying, "Oh, the Brukenthal has received its funding now - your petition is useless," (and there were several) has missed the point. THIS petition is not only for the Brukenthal which has served as an alarm bell of high-decibel proportions. It shows that if such a thing can happen there, it can happen to ANY institution and the recent news above seems to prove it. This cannot be allowed to continue. It wouldn't be tolerated anywhere else in Europe so WHY is it happening in Romania with such agonising regularity? Romania's first contemporary art museum ends up on the ground floor of a communist block and its fifth largest museum of collections is now in an army barracks??? What planet are we on, for pity's sake?

To quote from the final paragraph of the afore-mentioned petition written in Romanian, English, French and German: 'We call for a public debate on the fate of Romanian culture in the 21st century, involving the Ministry of Culture, museums, cultural institutions and NGOs to define the course of reforms so desperately needed in this vital sector for the future of Romania. We must put an end to the silence and indifference. We must show that culture matters.'

And I won't stop yelling until we have 2000 signatures and spent our energy dry.

If you wish to read and then sign the 'Petition for the Brukenthal Museum and for Romanian Culture', please click HERE. And then pass it on. Thank you!

UPDATE: 9th April: Please see THIS article by Roxana Dascalu.